GONZALES — Amy Nichols waited outside the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center for about 40 minutes on Saturday before getting in to see the Reptile and Exotic Animal Convention.
She waited because she went to the convention, also called “Repticon,” with a special pet of her own — a 6-foot-3-inch red-tailed boa named Thulsa Doune.
People went up to Nichols to pet her snake, keeping her from seeing the displays inside.
“I’d say 40 (people petted it) before I got here,” Nichols said with a laugh.
Nichols was one of hundreds of reptile lovers to visit Repticon on Saturday.
The convention continues at the Expo Center on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Repticon travels around the nation, said Skip Peel, Repticon event coordinator. He said it was visiting the Baton Rouge area this weekend for the third time.
Peel said the turnout has grown with each return trip.
There are plans for Repticon to visit the Baton Rouge area three times next year, Peel said.
“We’re on track to match what we did last time,” Peel said.
People milled around dozens of tables at Repticon, observing all the items reptile lovers need to care for their pets.
The convention offered informational sessions about how to take care of reptile pets. Several tables
also sold jewelry and sports-themed gear.
Hundreds of snakes, lizards and turtles were on sale, as well as pet food, habitats and other reptile paraphernalia.
Reptiles were on sale for as much as $1,000.
Some visitors to the event, such as the Nicholses, brought their own reptiles with them.
Joe Nichols wandered around the facility showing off another of their snakes. He carried an 8-foot-4-inch red-tailed boa named Valeria.
Amy Nichols said she and her husband own five snakes.
“I like exotic pets,” she said.
Amy Nichols said she and her husband enjoy showing people that domesticated snakes are not dangerous.
“These are kept snakes. They’re bred,” Amy Nichols said of her snakes. “They’re used to being handled.”
The Nichols’ snakes — Thulsa Doune and Valeria — are large, but one snake at Repticon dwarfed them both.
That snake — a 14-foot, 130-pound Burmese python named Sissy — belonged to Beanie Villermin, of New Iberia.
Villermin said he takes Sissy to other shows in Louisiana and Texas.
“We do every show,” Villermin said.
People passed by to pet Sissy and take photos of her. Some people even put the snake on their shoulders.
Aaron Chateau, of Metairie, was one of those people.
Villermin helped Chateau raise Sissy and wrap her across Chateau’s shoulders.
“Just don’t restrict its head,” Villermin advised Chateau.
Chateau said he is “fascinated” with snakes and owns six red-tailed boas.
“To see something that big and that friendly, it’s awesome,” Chateau said.
Reptiles weren’t the only animals featured at the convention — although the other creatures were being sold as reptile food.
A variety of insects and rodents were on display for reptile owners to keep their pets fed.
MiceDirect, a global reptile feeder company, sold mice, rats, worms and crickets.
Nathan Ramats, a show sales representative for MiceDirect, said the company travels around the nation to sell snake food.
“We just enjoy meeting the people,” Ramats said, “helping them find the right food for their pets.”