GOSHEN — Hundreds of reptiles, and people, gathered at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds on Saturday for the monthly Goshen Reptile Expo.

“Breeders from all over the state come here,” said show promoter Tony Collison.

He said the expo is not just a good way to come see or buy reptiles, but also to buy supplies and learn how to take better care of your pets.

“It’s an animal community, and if you’re a pet lover then you come here and talk with other pet lovers and learn more about your pet or possibly get a new pet,” he said.

The expo also presents a chance for visitors to see animals that can rarely be found in pet stores.

“Probably some of the most exotic would be reticulated pythons and the tegus,” Collison said, referring to the world’s longest snake and a large lizard species. “They’re big, friendly, lovable animals that everybody loves seeing.”

And one pet is sure to get attention when it gets to go.

“Sometimes I’ll bring my alligator here,” said Collison.

His six-foot alligator has been trained since it was six inches and will sit on a table and let people pet him.

“And he seems to really like it,” Collison said.

Though reptiles and other exotic animals are not the most conventional pets, their popularity is growing, according to Collison.

He said reptiles can make more sense than cats and dogs for people who can’t find the time for regular feeding and walks, and some find it easier to bond with a reptile.

“A cat or dog is a lot of work, but a snake that only needs to be fed once a week, that’ll just sit there nice and calm and watch TV with me, it’s a very soothing, calming thing,” he said.

One of the roughly 60 vendors, according to Collison, is Dark Side Geckos from La Porte.

“She actually has never seen Star Wars,” said Doug Walter about Karen, who is the other part of the operation. “She just likes the darker color geckos, so she names it Dark Side Geckos.”

The two don’t go many expos, but the one in Goshen is close enough to home that it makes sense to take the trip.

“Just to sell some, I guess,” Walter said. “Leopard geckos, crested geckos, gargoyle geckos,” naming just a few of the broad variety, spanning many sizes and colors, that the pair had brought.

And what’s the appeal in geckos?

“They can be handleable,” Walter said, pointing to a gecko sitting on his shoulder. “Now it ran behind me. You can handle them. It’s different things for different people.”

The next Goshen Reptile Expo is June 29. The expo celebrates its second anniversary in September. 

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

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