Repticon strikes Tallahassee, again

Photo of woman holding leopard geckos is Asia Goodwin, an owner of Robust Reptiles.
Photo Courtesy: Isaac Williams

Once a year, the city of Tallahassee becomes home to one of the most interesting
conventions in Florida. Repticon — held Saturday at the North Florida Fairgrounds — is
an event that brings together reptile enthusiasts, breeders and vendors from all over the
country. It is a place where people can buy, sell and trade some of the most exotic and
unique reptiles on the planet.

As Repticon has grown by traveling to various cities throughout its 20-year tenure,
Tallahassee has been a great city for the event. This is due to there being a smaller
number of vendors in the area but many attendees. A smaller vendor pool allows for a
more intimate showing, and attendees can learn more about the animals on display.

Mike Dean, Repticon operations manager, tarantula specialist and owner of The Exotic
Kingdom, said that people fear what they do not understand. He said he was
uncomfortable with spiders just like most people.

“I grew up playing with snakes and became involved in the pet trade industry as I
became older. One of my friends had a pet store and asked for help feeding his
tarantulas, and I immediately said no. But after being around the spiders often, I grew to
understand them more and became infatuated with them,” Dean said.

Dean has been involved with reptiles and invertebrates for more than 20 years.
Throughout his time in the business, he has been able to be a part of the movie industry
as well.

In 2013, one of his tarantulas was cast for the award-winning comedy, “We’re the

Vendors Rick Morales of Wall 2 Wall Ball Pythons and Brian Ensslin of BND Morphs
were in attendance. They both sell and breed pythons, and travel to conventions
together occasionally. Morales and Ensslin shared that caring for snakes is a full-time
job outside of their main sources of income.

“People only see the beautiful collections that people bring with them to conventions. I
think that it is misunderstood how much time goes into raising and caring for these
animals. We even breed our own rats to feed the snakes that we have,” Morales said.

Ensslin emphasized that conventions like Repticon not only benefit his business but
also serve an educational purpose. Visitors can interact with breeders and animal
enthusiasts, gaining firsthand knowledge and experience in a safe and controlled

“These events are great for getting people to understand these animals a bit more.
Anything with teeth is capable of biting, but that shouldn’t discourage you from learning
and interacting with snakes,” Ensslin said.

Snakes and spiders were not the only creatures in attendance. Asia Goodwin, an owner
of Robust Reptiles, brought geckos and axolotls to the event. Robust Reptiles were one
of the only two vendors that were from Tallahassee (along with brick-and-mortar store
Carol’s Critters).

“We travel sometimes, but a lot of our business is here locally. The Tallahassee
community is more interested in reptiles than you’d think, and we appreciate that,”
Goodwin said.

Repticon’s stop in town was informative and entertaining for those in attendance. The
commitment to an intimate convention continues to ring true for its annual stop in

For more information about tickets and upcoming shows, visit