Scaley Creatures, Alive and Dead, Showcased at Repticon 2021
by James Coulter
Jake Grimmer always loved reptiles. He also loved dead stuff. He proudly admits to always being weird, and he quickly learned that other people loved both reptiles and dead things. So he combined his two interests and started his hobby of embalming dead reptiles.
Grimmer has a vast selection of dead reptiles, ranging from snakes to lizards, embalmed in glass jars. He is a self-described oddities and curiosities curator who collects various remains from skulls, embalmed specimens, and even human remains.
“I do every, any, and all process of the dead,” he said. “I have always been weird, and I loved to play with dead stuff. I just kind of got to the point where I went out in public and I was playing with reptiles with my friends and learned that people like the dead stuff.”
Grimmer currently runs his business, That Dead Guy, where he sells and displays his items. He showcased his collection last weekend at Repticon 2021. It was the first time he attended the annual event in Central Florida. His first visit, even in spite of these uncertain times, made a good impression on him.
“I am testing the waters to see how everything is,” he said. “[This place has] a lot of people, a positive vibe with everybody, and people are different, certainly a place I want to come back to.”
Last weekend saw the return of the annual reptile show, Repticon, at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland. The event experienced a decent turnout on Saturday and Sunday, with the latter day hosting a smaller event due to the slower turnout, explained Summer Westmoreland, manager for this year’s event.
“This show has gone pretty well,” she said. “We have a lot of people coming in. The turnout has been pretty good. A little slower than last year’s was, but not significantly. I have not heard any complaints from our vendors.”
To ensure public health and safety, special precautions were taken, from recommending masks to providing hand sanitizer at vendors. Overall, even in spite of the ongoing pandemic, reptile enthusiasts were willing to attend and share their love of scaly creatures.
“Hopefully it will be bigger next year,” Westmoreland said. “We have been here for years at this point. Everybody knows us and to come out. And they know that Repticon has the best shows for reptiles.”
Scott Wisneski, owner of Family Reptiles, has been a major sponsor and participant at the event. Every year, he and his staff showcase various merchandise for reptile pet owners from their local store.
“We are a sponsor here for the show,” he said. “We travel around with Repticon to educate and inform, give people the opportunity to see and meet a lot of different reptiles at the same time, we already have reptile enthusiasts that may be looking for something new. We have families here picking up their first reptiles, so there is a lot of different people who come here. People to look, people to buy, but in the end, everyone here is learning something cool.”
Even in spite of the ongoing pandemic, Wisneski was impressed by the overall turnout. He appreciated being able to see everyone he has grown to love at the event, and to do so safely during these uncertain times. Hopefully, the pandemic will pass by next year and the event will continue to grow bigger and better, he said.
“I am getting to see a lot of old friends, old clients that we have not seen in a while, and reconnecting with those in our industries,” he said. “I hope to see continued shows with growth, and I hope that our supporters that are out there continue to come to our shows and see what we are doing.”