History of the Tucson Reptile & Amphibian Show & Sale

21 years ago a friend, Larry Sedrick, and I were the largest producers of captive bred snakes in Arizona, hatching about a thousand of our little phallic friends per year. We would sell them to pet stores, commercial wholesalers and private individuals, but our preferred outlet was various reptile tradeshows in California and Arizona. For years we batted around the idea of putting on our own reptile show in Tucson. One day in 2002, while driving down Fort Lowell near Mountain, we spotted a sign: ‘Hall For Rent’. We looked at each other and the nonverbal communication was all it took. We rented the 1500 square foot hall for $400 on the spot. We had 3 months to gather together a dozen like minded reptile enthusiasts and organize the Tucson Reptile & Amphibian Show & Sale.

Other than printing up a thousand fliers on my office Xerox, we spent no money on advertising. However, the show was a rather unique idea to the Old Pueblo and we got interviewed and put on the front page of the Tucson Star’s entertainment section. We also started a 21 year, annual stint on the Frank Show on KFMA / KLPX. We expected a few hundred people to show up over the weekend, if we were lucky — two thousand people attended. The entire weekend our little 1500 square foot hall was more crowded than a seventies disco.

The show has gone through several iterations over the years and currently occupies 60,000 square feet at the Pima County Fairgrounds. I’ve kept the show on a once a year schedule in order to keep it a true event. Last year’s show attracted over 11,000 people in a weekend. Visitors come from all over the western USA, but, I guess, 70% from Tucson (about 1% of Tucson came to the show last year). The goal of the show, over the last fifteen years, is to take in everyone (Reptile aficionados and normal people) and have them all leave as ‘Herp’ lovers. Herpers are made, not born (well usually). Vendors attend from Florida to California, we’ve even had a vendor from Germany.

What they come for is to view, interact and purchase thousands and thousands of captive bred reptiles and amphibians. Everything from half inch Poison Dart Frogs with colors so amazing that they blind you with their radiance, to 20-foot-long pythons, so docile that they can be petted by ten people at a time. Where else can you scratch an 7-foot alligator behind his ears or let a giant monitor lizard tickle your arm with his 6-inch-long tongue. Of course, animals are not humans and reptiles have not had the thousands of years of selective breeding for various traits of docility that some varieties of dogs and cats have had. Reptiles should be considered pets more similar to keeping tropical fish than the family dog.

We have a display of exotic venomous snakes from around the world. More species on display than the San Diego Zoo. There are educational displays put on by three herpetological societies, and the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Two thirds of the show is made up of vendors from around the country selling captive bred reptiles and amphibians, reptile art, reptile jewelry, reptile books, reptile shirts, hats, equipment, cages — anything reptilian. Don’t Miss This Unique Event.