Editor's note: This story originally ran on Oct. 13, 2012. The first show of 2013 is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at the Tinley Park Convention Center. Tickets are $15. Kids 5 to 13 years old are $8, and children younger than 5 are free. Go to the conference's website for more information.
It starts with the dinosaurs.
That's Brian Potter's theory when it comes to explaining people's fascinations with snakes, lizards turtles and other reptiles.
"When you're a kid, you start to like dinosaurs," said Potter, who is co-owner of the Chicago Reptile House in Orland Park and one of the organizers of this weekend's North American Reptile Breeders Conference at the Tinley Park Convention Center. "But then as an adult you think, maybe you can buy a dinosaur. [Reptiles] aren't quite a dinosaur, but they're close."
PHOTOS: Check Out Pictures of Last Year's NARBC
For Potter, the NARBC is another extension of that childhood curiosity and enchantment with reptiles, which started when he was a kid in Tinley Park, exploring creeks to look for turtles. In 1993, he helped open the Chicago Reptile House, which trades in captive-bred reptiles. Not long after that, he teamed up with someone in the trade-show business, and the two launched the conference as a way to bring together reptile vendors, breeders and enthusiasts together.
Think of it like Comic-Con, but instead of crowds of comic fans dressed as brightly colored superheroes, you have crowds of reptile fans, handling their sometimes brightly colored geckos and pythons.
After more than a decade, the show has grown from being a conference for industry diehards into an event that attracts people just curious to see these creatures up close, Potter said. In fact, here are five reasons the conference
1. It's a Learning Experience
"Part of it is science, part of it is art," said Potter, describing NARBC. "It's a lot more than just sideshow attraction."
Although getting up close to these exotic animals can be a big draw for the casual attendee, the conference also is a place for breeders to share information and learn more about the reptiles in their care, Potter said.
READ: Shed Your Nervousness With Some Not-So-Scary Snake Facts
And that information isn't just kept among the "experts." Speakers are scheduled to talk this weekend on topics ranging from breeding bearded dragons to caring for tortoises to an artist discussing his recent trip to the Galapagos islands.
2. It's Kid- and Family-Friendly
For someone who cites his childhood experiences as the reason for being a reptile breeders, it's no surprise that making the conference an inclusive event for everyone has been a big priority for him. That's why it was important to have NARBC in an inviting environment like the convention center and not a dank storefront basement or back room, he said.
However, the biggest reason Potter makes sure the conference continues to court courts is because of the reaction they have seeing an exotic snake or lizard for the first time.
"After a while, when you become an adult, you start to lose the super passion for [your hobby]," he said. "But kids are just blown away by it. They haven't lost that, and it's great to see."
3. It's a Little Bit Rock 'N' Roll
It's not too far out there to say that reptile breeding attracts a certain kind of person. While there are plenty of your "regular Joe Schmoes" who take up the hobby—your doctors and lawyers—there is also a segment of enthusiasts who might be considered a bit more colorful. Like say, actor Nicolas Cage or Slayer guitarist Kerry King, who will have vendors table set up at the conference.
"He's a rock star, but when he's there he's just a guy who sets up a table," Potter said.
4. It Attracts People From Around the World
The conference also draws from a wide geographic pool when it comes to vendors and visitors. The Tinley Park location makes it ideal for people from Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and other neighboring states to visit, Potter said. But he's also seen people fly in from as far away as Coppenhagen to attend the event.
5. It's Got Bubba the Alligator
Check out the video in this article of Mokena's own scaly celebrity and his owner, Jim Nesci, for your explanation.
North American Reptile Breeders Association Conference
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.
Where: Tinley Park Convention Center
Cost: $15. Kids 5 to 13 years old are $8, and children younger than 5 are free.
More info: Go to the conference's website.
Two Ways to Stay Connected to Tinley Park Patch:
- Subscribe to our newsletters to have headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox.
- "Like" our Facebook page for updates throughout the day.