The “keep calm, it’s just a snake” phrase featured on Michael Rossi’s shirt was a fitting description for the wildlife show he presented outside at the St. Simons Island Public Library Wednesday.
A crowd of children gathered in wonder as Rossi showed them a variety of animals in more than 10 containers that held fuzzy, furry and scaly friends.
Nine-year-old Malia Gray said her favorite animal of the show was a large yellow snake, but the animal she wanted to hold was one she said was furry and “looked like a raccoon.”
Nicolas Mavromat, also 9 years old, on the other hand preferred the big turtles and wanted to hold a snake.
Karen Larrick, the program coordinator for Marshes of Glynn Libraries, took the opportunity to remind the crowd about the Beanstack program, through which children can keep track of how many books they read over the summer and potentially win free books and other prizes.
“The goal is to keep the children entertained in the summer but also to encourage them to still intellectually explore the world around them and to read and hopefully by having programs like today, they’ll be encouraged,” Larrick said. “They may pick up a book about one of the animals they saw today and want to learn more about that animal.”
Rossi had the children laughing with a few jokes before introducing them to his first animal friend of the program, a rabbit.
Rossi introduced the students to the concept of mammals by allowing three children to hold a guinea pig. He pointed out how the animal was warm and has bones, and he talked to them about how they are also mammals and what characteristics made them mammals.
Rossi revealed the next animal category, reptiles, by introducing the group to an alligator snapping turtle. As Rossi sang about the turtle, he held up a small turtle before pulling the larger alligator snapping turtle from its container. Kids reacted with shrieks, and wonder and excitement was apparent on their faces. He told them what characteristics make a reptile and talked to them about what animals are.
Rossi also showed the children other types of turtles and showed them the turtle dance. He had the kids stand, and delight showed on their faces as they rubbed their hands together, stomped their feet and made other noises. The children were allowed to hold different lizards, such as a gecko and a bearded dragon. Rossi also showed them bigger animals, such as two different large lizards and a few snakes.
Then came the big attractions for the show — the many constrictor snakes. For these, multiple children were asked to come forward and stand shoulder to shoulder with their arms out so they could hold the full length of the snake. He had three children stand together to hold a Brazilian rainbow boa constrictor. He let two of them put the snake on their shoulders. It took eight children standing shoulder to shoulder to hold a large yellow constrictor. The last scaly friend for the day was a young alligator.
He also invited the library staff to get involved in the show. Both Larrick and Maureen Hersey, the library manager, held the large yellow constrictor.
Hersey said the turnout for this and other library programs has been great.
“We’re just delighted with the turnout for our summer programs. Kids are having a great time,” Hersey said.