Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Animal Planet's Kimberly Wright helps Braden Mortensen, 8, and Tia Johnson, 11, hold a 14-foot-long Burmese python at the Sugar House Boys and Girls Club.

Families are invited to bring children — and the family dog — to the free Animal Planet Expo this weekend.

The event is designed to help families learn about animals and environments they may never see outside of their TV screens. And since every person in the world contributes to the destruction of those environments by consumption of day-to-day products, information on living greener lives will be available.

The expo will be held today and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Liberty Park. Family pets, cats and dogs, are invited to attend as well. A watering hole and pet mister will be available for their use.

An Animal Planet Expo animal expert, Kimberly Wright, explained her hope that by teaching families about interesting animals and their habitat, the family will be more inclined to reduce, reuse and recycle.

On Friday, Animal Planet held a sneak preview for children at the Sugar House Boys and Girls Club. A few children were selected to pet the animals that were showcased, including Roly-Poly Roland the groundhog, Caesar the iguana and Kima the kinkajou.

Wright warned the children to be careful around animals in nature and to not feed or touch them.

"They're not really our friends out there," Wright said.

A few children were asked to role-play as trees in a tropical rain forest and to close their eyes, because trees do not have eyes. Gomez, a bright yellow Burmese python, was then placed in their outstretched arms.

They were comforted by knowing the young python was not poisonous. "He's in the constrictor family, which means he likes to give hugs," warned Wright.

Tia Johnson, 11, was excited to have held Gomez. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh! It's gonna be a big snake!' It was really neat."

"My neighbors have snakes, so I knew what to expect," Tia explained, "but when it started to move, its scales made my hands tickle!"

The expo will feature many animals from San Diego's Wild Wonders location. It will also have such attractions as an exhibition of high-flying Frisbee dogs and a Planet Green Experience, where families can learn to live more eco-friendly.

Children are invited to have their faces painted at the Kids' Zone, play on the "Happy Gator" obstacle course and take a slide down "King Croc," a 30-foot inflatable slide.


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