Repticon FIRExpo Slithers in Once Again to Lakeland
by James Coulter
Three years ago, Blair needed a carrier for her bearded dragon. As someone who goes camping a lot, she wanted something to keep her scaly bearded friend close to her outdoors.
She looked online for something to carry it in. She didn’t find what she was looking for. So she did what anyone would do: make it herself.
She sewed her own personal lizard carrier. She wears it like a sling over her shoulder with her pet strapped over her chest. She loved it so much that she decided to merchandise it.
“And I thought if I needed it, then many other people do, so I started making them,” Blair said.
Three years later, Blair has been crafting personal reptile pet carriers from various fabrics and selling them online through her small business, Sandfire Slings. She has been selling her wares at reptile shows, including the annual Repticon FIRExpo in Lakeland, which was hosted last weekend.
Along with her merchandise, she also brought along her new bearded iguana pet, Helios, whom she has owned for the past year. While Blair loves her reptile sling, Helios does not particularly care for it, she said.
“He tolerates this,” Blair said. “It is not his favorite thing. He is tough to get in it.”
She has been attending Repticon FIRExpo for several years, though she often visits the conventions hosted in Orlando and Tampa. Sometimes she even travels out of state to Georgia and Texas.
She had not attended Lakeland Repticon for some time. She did note that the event was smaller than she remembered, most likely due to the current COVID-19 crisis. However, she loves the event nonetheless and hopes to continue attending soon.
Blair and Sandfire Sling were one of many vendors to attend this year’s Repticon FIRExpo, hosted over the weekend at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. More than 50 vendors participated to showcase reptiles of every shape and size, from the smallest gecko to the largest tortoise and every other creature in-between.
Tom Davis of Redfoot Ranch showed several tortoise species as bred at their ranch. Their breeding facility breeds more than 200 tortoises with hundreds of eggs and babies produced each year.
“Working with these species, they adapt well in Florida climate,” he said. “This is the perfect climate for a lot of these species in Florida. They are a wonderful pet for many people because they do interact and walk around and eat the same food that people eat. So it becomes a nice pet for people.”
Davis has been coming to the local reptile show for nearly a decade, ever since Repticon originally started. He loves being able to attend and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow reptile enthusiasts, even amidst these uncertain times.
“Wearing masks and everything…it is obnoxious,” he said. “It is a pain in the butt, but it will be over in a while when everyone gets vaccinated. We will be back to normal soon.”
Scott Wisenski, the owner of Family Reptiles, has been attending the event since 2012 and sponsoring it since 2016. As the owner of a local reptile store, which will be expanding into a new location this April, he appreciates the camaraderie of reptile owners and lovers at these shows.
This year’s show proved slow at the start, but quickly picked up momentum throughout the day and weekend. Overall, it was a good turnout, even despite these uncertain times.
“We are seeing a lot of our regular customers. So people are out, they are spending their stimulus checks, they are stimulating the economy, they are picking up some new animals, and it is good to see people just getting out of the house and seeing different things,” he said. “So it is fantastic. We can get out, we can be safe, we can have fun, we can shop around, and we can do it safely.”
For more information about Repticon, visit their website at: https://repticon.com/