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Alligators, snakes and kids — oh, my!

Colorful carnival rides loomed nearby, but the dozens of children gathered at Port Orchard’s Marina Gazebo Park Tuesday morning did not seem to notice them at all.

They were too entranced with the close-up look at crawly creatures offered by Scott Petersen, a.k.a, “The Reptile Man.”

Petersen shows off the animals from his reptile zoo near Monroe every year as part of the Port Orchard Library’s outdoor summer reading program, which this year has the theme of “Get A Clue.”

One child particularly engaged with the animals was 8-year-old Jaime Nakhla, whose family came to watch the animals and enjoy a picnic lunch along the waterfront.

With nearly every speck of grass already taken up by an excited, child, however, the large Nakhla clan — all wearing similarly patterned bandanas for easy locating — was gathered on the covered bleachers behind the lawn.

Of course, they also could have needed the shade, since Petersen’s visit this year came when South Kitsap’s weather began creeping above 80 degrees.

“It’s great — and it’s not too hot yet,” said Port Orchard Library’s assistant branch manager Kathleen Wilson. “If it gets too hot, the animals start wilting.”

On Tuesday, the animals roaming free to the delight of the children — and many of their parents, as well — were an African desert tortoise and a rare albino boa constrictor.

Before setting the animals loose, Petersen reminded the crowd that all had been devenomized, and that none of the five children holding the snake were in danger of being “constricted,” since they weren’t rats.

“I hope your leg doesn’t smell like mouse,” said one mom, only half-jokingly, to her son as he held part of the snake, letting its head slide down his back to his feet.

With the tortoise focused only on eating grass while covered with small human hands and the large snake content to be held by even more tiny hands, Petersen carried “Lucy,” a young alligator.

When asked if that creature was the same tiny thing he had brought a couple of years ago, Petersen admitted that no, there have been several “Lucys” since then.

“I keep bringing them until they get too heavy to carry,” he explained while holding out the alligator for another crowd of small hands, warning them not to get their fingers near her mouth, since her teeth were plenty sharp. “And this one is almost there, since she’s about 50 pounds.”

Every new alligator keeps the name Lucy, however, since Petersen has learned from the past that if he didn’t bring one with that name, all the children asked, “What happened to Lucy?”

When they do get too big to hold out for extended periods, Petersen said he doesn’t get rid of them, but simply adds them to his zoo.

“The last Lucy, she’s swimming in a pool at my house,” he said.

For anyone who missed Reptile Man’s visit this week, he will be at the Manchester Library, 8067 E. Main Street, on July 24 at 10:30 a.m.

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