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June 9, 2020

Although this year's Reptile Festival had to be canceled due to the health concerns related to COVID-19, the Virginia Museum of Natural History is still planning to bring stories of Virginia's native reptiles to audiences during its first ever "Virtual Reptile Festival." On Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13, the museum will provide a series of videos produced by museum researchers and their colleagues, which highlight some of the spectacular reptiles that call Virginia home.  The videos will be posted on the museum's official Facebook page periodically throughout the two days.

Additionally, the museum is hosting a "Drive-thru Reptile Experience" on Saturday, June 13 from noon to 3 p.m. inside the museum parking lot, which will feature multiple live animals, as well as reptile fossil specimens from the VMNH scientific collections. The drive-thru experience is free of charge.

"With the museum still closed to visitors and crowd size restrictions in place, hosting the Reptile Festival this year simply wasn't possible," said Ben Williams, administer of science at the museum. "However, we're determined not to leave our reptile fans hanging, so the idea came about to have some of the museum's researchers and our colleagues provide some fun and informative videos about a variety of species that are native to Virginia. More recently, we decided we could tack on a physical aspect to the event by offering a drive-thru experience in which visitors can drive through the museum parking lot and check-out several live reptiles, as well as a sampling of reptile fossils from the museum's scientific collections."

During "Virtual Reptile Festival", the museum will post reptile-themed videos to its Facebook page periodically on Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13. Some of the animals that will be highlighted include a queen snake, northern brown snake, northern water snake, garter snake, copperhead, eastern cottonmouth, rat snake, black racer, mole king snake, as well as a variety of turtles and lizards.

Additionally, museum educators will provide multiple videos showing audiences how to conduct reptile-themed crafts and activities from the comfort of their own home.

"The hands-on activities for children are a staple of all museum festivals and we wanted to make sure to provide a piece of that interactivity to our audience," said Williams. "One of our veteran Reptile Festival vendors has even produced a face-painting instructional video, if folks are inclined to try at home."

During the "Drive-thru Reptile Experience," which is set to take place Saturday, June 13 from noon to 3 p.m. within the museum parking lot, VMNH staff will provide a variety of live reptiles and reptile specimens, such as fossils, from the museum's scientific collections. Live animals that will be on display include a 14+ foot long albino Burmese python, a ball python, corn snake, and red-eared slider.

"While the sampling of live animals won't compare to what we've been able to offer at previous Reptile Festivals, we hope people will take advantage of the opportunity to check out a few of our reptile friends and learn a thing or two from museum researchers and educators," said Williams. "We're especially happy to be able to display the albino Burmese python, which has been a crowd favorite at previous Reptile Festivals, but didn't appear at last year's festival."

While the museum's parking lot will be accessible during the "Drive-thru Reptile Experience", the museum remains closed to visitors. All visitors are asked to remain in their vehicles during the event.

All videos that are part of the "Virtual Reptile Festival" will be posted to the museum's Facebook page and will be accessible on additional platforms, including the museum's website, in the following days.  The museum's Facebook page is available to the public and does not require a Facebook account to be accessed.

About the Virginia Museum of Natural History 
The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville seeks to increase understanding of and appreciation for the natural history of the Commonwealth through education, research, collections, publications and exhibits. The museum – an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution – is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, a distinction earned by fewer than 10 percent of museums in the United States. The museum is a member of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, Virginia Association of Museums, Heritage Preservation, and is an agency of the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed on Sundays and some holidays, including special hours during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays. The museum is currently closed to visitors due to health concerns related to COVID-19.

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