Scaly Creatures Slither To Lakeland For Sixth Annual Repticon FIRExpo
by James Coulter
The good news is that, if you visited Lakeland over the weekend, you had the chance to meet a gecko. The bad news is that the gecko most likely would not have you save 15 percent or more on your car insurance.
Brian Schmitt, Owner of Guardians of the Gecko, showed off his collection of colorful, exotic geckos, as one of the hundreds of vendors at this year’s Florida International Reptile Expo (FIRE) in Lakeland this weekend.
Based in Orlando, Guardians of the Gecko specializes in exotic gecko species from over the world, including crescent and gargoyle geckos. Many of them are from Madagascar.
Schmitt was fascinated by reptiles ever since he was a little kid. When he started college, he started his hobby by owning two leopard geckos. He soon ended up with a few more, as he discovered that the two were a pair, he said.
“Before I knew it, I realized I had a male and female, because the female was laying eggs,” he said. “At that point, I figured what to do with it. Over the years, it has developed into a passion and a job.”
Schmitt has been attending Repticon FIRExpo for the past two years. He loves being able to meet and mingle with other reptile enthusiasts, as well as interacting with people who are interested in owning reptiles themselves.
“Great to talk and connect with other breeders and customers,” he said. “It is an investment in Florida for sure. It’s one of our favorites, and we are sure to come back in the future.”
Nearly 100 vendors from all over the state congregated within the RP Funding Center for a weekend dedicated to their love of all creatures scaly, slithery, and slimy, from snakes and lizards to Komodo dragons and other rare creatures.
Kristine Lynch, Co-Owner of Orlando Chameleons, helped showcase her business’ many colorful chameleons. Many of them are ambilobe chameleons, which are able to change colors depending on their color and mood.
Some chameleons show their brightest and best colors when around a potential mate. Others turn bright and puff up when approached by a rival. Others will turn black when they get upset.
Orlando Chameleons have attended Repticon many times before in Lakeland. They love being able to meet different people, especially those who share their love of reptiles.
“We have been here before,” she said. “It is a good time. It is fun for us to show our babies and love talking to people and getting more involved with the hobby.”
For the past six years, FIRExpo Repticon has been hosting their show in Lakeland. Repticon hosts many similar reptile shows across the country. The one they host in Lakeland is slightly smaller than Tampa and the same size as Orlando, explained Chaz Gavitt, Manager On Duty.
Gavitt has been with Repticon for the past six years. This was his first time overseeing the FIRExpo. He claims that the biggest draw for these events is how they present themselves as family-friendly and kid-friendly, allowing guests of all ages an opportunity to visit.
“It is a good way for them to spend an afternoon together,” he said. “Just seeing all the exotic animals and morphs of reptiles that are available. I think it is a great way to spend the day with other herp[atology] enthusiasts, if nothing else, hanging out and having fun.”
For more information about Repticon, visit their website at: https://repticon.com/