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Snakes, gators and great big tortoises
Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair’s reptile show is educational
Jason Clark of Southeastern Reptile Rescue, left, gets some help from a fearless Zavier Santos, 10, of Statesboro while explaining the attributes of a rat snake during the 2018 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Wednesday. Clark brought out several snakes, including venomous ones, to help educate the audience and dispel many common myths about snakes and other reptiles. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is much more than the midway. Among the several acts, performances and attractions this year is an educational and interactive reptile show.

Jason Clark, with Southeastern Reptile Rescue, has a tangle of snakes, alligators and tortoises he uses in his nightly shows, which take place in the Heritage Village area at 8 p.m. each night. Sometimes he throws a bonus show in as a surprise, he said.

South Georgia alligators will join four Sulcata tortoises, an assortment of snakes native to the area, an anaconda, a Gaboon viper and a cobra as Clark teaches viewers about reptiles. All of his animals were rescued or removed from someone’s yard or pond, he said.

The family-owned business is based out of Griffin, Georgia. Clark said he has been handling snakes since age 7 and has been involved in rescue since he was 14. The family formed the business in 2001, and in addition to educational shows, exhibits and stage performances, they remove, rescue and adapt reptiles that are either abandoned or unwanted pets or animals that kept illegally or that are wild, but in the wrong place.

On many occasions, Southeastern Reptile Rescue has had animals featured on TV shows and movies, Clark said.

In order to legally handle and rescue wild reptiles, or own such snakes as the venomous Gaboon viper and cobra, one must be licensed. Often, people own exotic or wild animals illegally, and end up surrendering them to such rescues, he said.

Sometimes people just don’t know any better. A great deal of “information” about snakes and other wildlife is actually incorrect, he said.

“There are so many myths about snakes,” he said. “What people think they know is often not correct.”

During presentations, Clark educates people on “how to identify snakes, whether they are venomous or not, how to not get bitten and what to do if they do get bitten,” he said. “Even those who don’t like snakes enjoy the show.”

Children — and adults if they wish — are allowed to touch the snakes, tortoises and alligators. For a fee, they can have photos taken holding the animals. The reptiles are kept inside a trailer that houses the exhibit, and when they leave, they have to “walk through the tortoise yard,” he said. There, the Sulcata tortoises roam free, and one named Pablo weighs about 100 pounds.

The reptile show is just one of many nightly free entertainment events at the fair. The Rosaire’s Racing Pigs are back this year and are very popular, said Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair chairwoman Debra Pease.

There are demonstrations in the Aldrich House, including soap-making and corn husk doll-making, she said.

Kiwanis Club member Bill Anderson said he recommends people visit Sam’s Path Petting Zoo, which features an assortment of domestic and exotic animals, including a camel that was bottle raised by the zoo owner.

The fair also offers a sugar-cane-grinding and syrup-making exhibit, beekeeping house, genuine old country store, blacksmith demonstration, balloon artist, grist mill and an assortment of musical performances. All are free with admission, but rides and games of chance on the midway require tickets, wristbands or cash.

There are two ATMS at the fairgrounds. The fair opens at 4 p.m., with the exception of Saturday, when it opens at 12:30 p.m.

Admission for anyone over age 6 is $5.


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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