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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Ian Batterman holds a rainbow boa as he gives children a closer look at the snake during a new free show series hosted by the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium at Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City on Thursday, June 28, 2018.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Despite being asked to keep seated the entire show, the throng of excited children couldn't help but stand up, with some even running onto the stage when different animals appeared.

"I need a few volunteers," said the actor holding a large lizard on a leash, and nearly every child in the audience thrust their hand in the air with delighted eagerness.

Clearly, the show was highly captivating for the young crowd.

For the first time, the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is bringing live animal shows outside the aquarium. Valley Fair Mall is hosting the program every other Thursday this summer, featuring a kid-centered performance with live animals from the aquarium. Guests can watch the educational show and meet the animals before and after showtimes.

"It's a fun event that we do, bringing out animals, we get the audience really into it, get them excited," said Ashley Kerbs, ambassador animal manager at the aquarium.

Acting as detectives solving a murder mystery, Kerbs and other aquarium employees found clues and slipped in animal fun facts and conservation information as they put on the lighthearted, animal-centered performance Thursday. Non-human "performers" included an Argentine black and white tegu lizard, a boa constrictor, a hedgehog and a crested gecko.

Each week's shows has a new performance with a new theme, including myths and legends, superheroes and fairy tales.

Seats inside the performance area in the mall filled up quickly Thursday, but at the beginning of the show kids were invited to sit on a large carpet at the front to view the performance. The actors were enthusiastic and playful with the audience, frequently asking for kid participation in the middle of the show.

"All of our programs, they're all centered around a conservation message," Kerbs said. "We want people to take away from what we're doing today, so we're talking today specifically how we can recycle, use less plastics. Some of our other events talk about just being more aware of what you're doing saving water in your backyards, just any little thing you can do here in Utah to help the oceans."

In addition to kid-friendly conservation education, Kerbs said they also teach about the animals in their show.

"Every time we bring out an animal, we talk about what it is, where it's from, kind of some fun facts about it that maybe kids didn't know about them," she said. "And then they're kinda tied into the program as well, so they're in the script as a character, but then we are giving out information about the animals."

Each show will feature a different cast of animals. Kerns said in future shows they plan to bring big snakes, tarantulas, armadillos and parrots that can do impressions. She said they wished they could bring marine animals to the show, but it's impractical to move them out of the aquarium.

The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium has additional upcoming events this summer.

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"There's always something going on at the aquarium," Kerns said. "We have shark week coming up July 22 through the 28, so if you can't make it to the Valley Fair, come out to the aquarium. We'll be doing shark tank activities all that week."

The aquarium also still has a few more spots available for summer camps, for kids ages 4 to 17, at thelivingplanet.com/summercamps.

If you go ...

What: Living Planet Days' animal show and meet and greets

Dates: July 12, July 26, Aug. 9, Aug. 16 (all Thursdays)

Times: 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. (shows last approximately 20 minutes)

Where: Valley Fair Mall center court

How much: Free