BRISTOL - As his sparkling eyes caught a black and white tegu on the far end of the room a toddler darted across the floor without any hesitation. Honing in on the three-foot-long lizard he stumbled back in fear, only to be scooped up by dad, ready to catch and comfort his son.
That was the kind of day it was at the Barnes Nature Center Sunday, where fathers and sons, grandfathers and granddaughters mingled with lizards, dragons and other daunting, leathery creatures. It was a Father’s Day soiree, hosted by center volunteers and visiting reptile expert Stefan Hulbert.
Hailing from Slither and Swim Pets in West Haven, Hulbert brought a variety of animals for families to learn about. Beckoned by a chance to touch them and get an up-close look, kids listened as he explained habitats and lifestyles.
“I enjoy all the animals,” eight-year-old Logan said, while his parents Jeremy and Heather Hemphill stood by.
The Terryville family has five pets of their own at home. Father and son are regular volunteers at Barnes.
“We love this place,” Heather pointed out.
Michael and Diedre Tanner brought along their son Brandon, 14, daughter Carissa, 17, and three of their younger cousins. It was their very first visit to the nature center and a Father’s Day family outing.
Brother and sister both agreed that their father’s best quality is his humor.
“He’s funny,” Carissa said, with a nod from Brandon.
Waterbury resident Susan Peterson and her three-and-a-half-year-old Medelyn Berecz came to see the snakes.
“It’s really cool here,” Peterson said of the center. “I would come back again.”
Tylor Johnson and his son Tylor, a year and four months old, live close by the facility.
“We always hike the trails back here,” explained Johnson, whose brother Dustin and father Mark joined them.
“We probably drive by here a hundred times a day,” Mark noted. “It’s a pretty neat place.”
The center is hosting a musical performance on Friday, June 30 from 7 to 9 p.m., featuring the HBH Band. Playing keyboard will be Scott Heth, executive director of the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut, Barnes’ parent organization. Admission is $10 per person.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.