Annabelle Elsass, her mother Adrienne and several friends from Exotic Evolutions joined us in the EastIdahoNews.com studio. | Jordan Wood, EastIdahoNews.com
IDAHO FALLS — An enthusiastic local teen believes the best way to overcome fears and misconceptions about snakes and other cold-blooded creatures is to learn about them. That is why she has worked to bring a reptile, amphibian and invertebrate expo called Beast Market Place to the Blue Cross of Idaho Conference Center at the Mountain America Center.
Annabelle Elsass, 16, of Idaho Falls, has loved reptiles since she was a little girl, her mother, Adrienne Elsass, told EastIdahoNews.com. Growing up in San Diego, California, Annabelle brought home lizards and rolly-pollies as a child and has been excited about scaled creatures for a long time.
In 2010, Annabelle began volunteering at Beast Market Place, an exotic pet store in San Diego, caring for and handling their reptiles, Elsass told EastIdahoNews.com. Handling reptiles helps them become accustomed to humans, she said, which makes them more suitable to be pets.
Around the same time, Annabelle began helping with a herpetology group for teens and kids (they study amphibians and reptiles). Teaching people about reptiles is one of her favorite things to do; so, although she and her mother moved to eastern Idaho two years ago, she still runs the youth group over Zoom, she said.
The move to Idaho has brought Annabelle into contact with even more reptile lovers. She said there lots of people involved in raising and selling reptiles here in Idaho. Bringing them together as a community — and perhaps educating the more squeamish folks — seemed to be a logical step. The owners of Beast Market Place in San Diego were all for it and trusted Annabelle to organize the whole thing.
“Mainly, (I) just (wanted) to bring one to Idaho Falls,” Annabelle said. “There’s always (expos) in Salt Lake City and Boise, and there’s never been one in Idaho Falls.”
The expo, sponsored by the Beast Market Place, where Annabelle volunteered, will bring together local breeders, sellers and educators as well as those from several nearby states, such as Wyoming and Montana.
Attendees will be able to purchase reptiles as well as equipment and accessories for caring for all reptiles, not just snakes. But the expo is about educating the public, too.
When asked what she wants the public to know about reptiles, Annabelle laughed.
“They’re not as scary as they look,” she said. “They’re just real fun.”
Josh Johnson gives Vader the Python a cuddle. Jordon Wood | EastIdahoNews.com
Dalton Summers, co-owner and CEO of Exotic Evolutions in Idaho Falls, agrees. Exotic Evolutions is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about snakes. They are also sponsoring the expo.
“A lot of people say snakes aren’t smart and don’t have personalities,” Summer told EastIdahoNews.com. He said that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Each one is completely different,” he said.
Additionally, Summer said each snake breed has its own basic personality traits and care needs, much like dogs. Some are very active and like to be held. Others are more “for show”, he said; they don’t want to interact with humans.
Watch a video of our chat with Summer and several snakes in the video player above.
Organizers say the Beast Market Place expo is the perfect place to learn about creatures with scales whether you are a reptile enthusiast or not. They also say it’ll be a great place to bring curious children. Just don’t be surprised if they want to bring one home.
The Beast Market Place expo will take place on April 29 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on April 30 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets for the expo are available to purchase here. Children under five are free and there is a discount for cub scout and girl scout groups on Sunday.
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