The 18th annual Sacramento Reptile Show on Sept. 26 and 27 brought snakes, lizards, turtles and other “non-fuzzy” cuddly critters to the Sacramento Convention Center.
The company that has run the show for 18 years, Upscale Reptile, owned by Jeremy and Angel Epstein of Elk Grove’s Pets To Go, has been growing the trade show since 1998, with attendance growing steadily; in it’s third year in 2000, the show brought just 4,000 attendees, but this year that number has risen to 14,640.
Visitors pay $10 for a one-day pass (or $16 for Saturday and Sunday admittance) and can stroll amongst 1,400 vendors of habitats, food and accessories, and exotic reptiles themselves, some priced as high as $4,000. Exhibitors like Exo-Terra and the Phoenix Herpetological Society bring a level of professionalism with exhibits that entertain as well as educate.
This year the show spilled out over 100,000 square feet in the main hall of the convention center, including more than 45 venomous species from around the world like King Cobras and Black Mambas. A more hands-on educational exhibit by Brad’s World Reptile took up one section of the hall, with landscaped dioramas for each specimen. Dr. Brian Todd, associate professor at UC Davis’s Department of Wildlife, Fish, & Conservation Biology, ran an informational booth with several students about reptile tracking and conservation efforts, noting that the community of breeders and reptile-lovers are among the most engaged when it comes to protecting against illegal trade of restricted animals.
USARK, the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, estimated in that in 2011 there were more than 300 large-scale reptile shows nationally that year, involving breeders, conservation groups, retailers and food and accessory companies. Besides serving as marketplaces, trade shows like this provide a space for reptile-fans and hobbyists to exchange care and husbandry tips with professionals, who in turn use shows as gathering points to socialize and network. Trade shows have been part of the continuing trend connecting reputable reptile breeders directly with customers and retailers, eliminating the niche found in other industries for wholesalers and distributors as middlemen. Bruce Smith, whose Chico-based company Nature’s Creations, says the vast majority of his sales are made at shows like this. “I go to about 18 shows a year, and that’s most of it,” he says, wearing a shirt with crossed fingers on the back that reads “I swear this is my LAST reptile!”
Karen Dickenson of the Sacramento Convention Center Complex, says the diversity of shows that come to Sacramento is amazing, ranging from the upcoming scrapbook show to take place in the same hall as the Reptile Show, to the annual Sacramento Speaker Series, held next February in the Community Center Theater that is part of the complex.