Michael Shwedick's Reptile World show doesn't need music, costumes or magic to entertain children. With friends such as Banana Girl the albino Indian python and Spike the green iguana, as well as a hefty dose of reptile facts, his show keeps kids oohing and aahing.
"I select reptiles that are very colorful and are on the large side," Mr. Shwedick said yesterday before a two-hour presentation at the Inner Harbor. "I share reptiles with them that I was most interested in when I was their age."
For the Kaufman Pavilion show on Rash Field, he brought along several poisonous snakes, an alligator, a crocodile and a yellow soft-shell turtle, in addition to Banana Girl and Spike.
"Whoa, big snake," gasped Hector Montoya, 5, when Mr. Shwedick brought out a timber rattler.
Scores of children crowded the steps to the stage, to get a good view. Although some screamed as Mr. Shwedick brought out the animals, most seemed unafraid. They squealed with delight as the alligator and crocodile wriggled in Mr. Shwedick's hands.
The reptile show was part of Kids' Stuff, free children's entertainment presented Tuesday and Thursday mornings through Aug. 11 at the pavilion next to the Maryland Science Center. The programs are produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion.
Most of the 250 to 300 people who attend each Kids' Stuff show come from camps or day care centers, said Tara Moses, events coordinator with the Office of Promotion.
Gloria Young, director of La'Bar Day Care and All Day Preschool, said she has been bringing groups of children to Kids' Stuff shows for at least four years.
The Inner Harbor provides a good location because "it's a beautiful view; it's safe. It gives the children something different to look at than they have at home," said Ms. Young, adding that many of the children in her care come from low-income households.
Michael Anthony Jackson, 11, came with the George G. Kelson YMCA summer day camp to see the reptiles. "It's fun 'cause they're real," he said. "I wish they would let them down on the floor."
But Mr. Shwedick and his animals stayed behind a barrier of yellow tape for most of the show.
Based in Bowie, Mr. Shwedick makes his living traveling around the country to share his reptiles at schools, theaters and programs like Kids' Stuff.
Banana Girl, named for her bright yellow color, was the hit of yesterday's show.
The audience screamed after glimpsing her substantial tail. They oohed as three men helped Mr. Shwedick heave Banana Girl from her wooden case and lay her 12-foot body across cases and a cabinet on the stage.
Mr. Shwedick said the 78-pound python's most recent meal was a pig, which took more than an hour to swallow whole. "It looked like she swallowed three NFL footballs."
Many children and adults waited in line after the show for a chance to touch Banana Girl.
"It feeled like a banana," said Morgan Baker, 4. Tomorrow, Pumpkin Theatre is scheduled to present "The Tortoise and the Hare" and other fables.
For more information on future Kids' Stuff programs, call 837-4636 or 1-800-282-6632 for a recorded message.