There were snakes and turtles and lizards, oh my.
And that's not all.
This weekend, the UIC Physical Education Building has been transformed into its yearly reptile and amphibian show, where 40,000 square feet have been taken over by scaly, skin-shedding, hard-backed, teeth-baring creatures. All are friendly, of course.
When making our annual pilgrimage, my 4-year-old and 18-month-old pet, hugged and nearly crushed their fair share of turtles and snakes, and not once were they hissed at or bitten (although I wouldn't have blamed those super patient animals if they had at least made an angry face).
The reptile festival, which is operated by the Chicago Herpetological Society and sponsored by Chicago Parent, is the largest educational reptile and amphibian show in the country - but thankfully, it doesn't feel overly crowded.
Arriving in the morning can be a little cramped, but in the afternoons, the space opens slightly and it's pretty easy to walk right up to every reptile without more than a minute's wait.
The people working the event must be some of the most patient exhibitors we've experienced, and they happily described their reptiles, wiped grime from toddler fingers before placing their beloved pets into those hands and didn't flinch when those tiny arms nearly dropped those fragile creatures.
It made for a wonderful day. My 18-month-old was a little timid at first, but she was relieved to see something she thought looked to be a dog. Instead, however, it was a gigantic turtle casually crawling about the space. When I explained her mistake, she realized that the small turtles weren't as scary as they seemed (although the giant one was to be feared) and allowed them to crawl over her legs as she waved "hello."
My 4-year-old loved having snakes wrap themselves around her neck like extravagant necklaces, and didn't event mind when they pulled in a little too tightly (it's worth the pain, she explained).
There were too many creatures to mention - but expect to see everything from Burmese Pythons to Bearded Dragons at the festival - and if you ask nicely enough, you just may get to pet just about everything.
Danielle Braff lives with her two daughters and husband in downtown Chicago.
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