By MARC MALONEY, Valley Community Newspapers writer
Turtles and tortoises and terrapins, oh my! The shelled, slow-footed Chelonians will serve as the stars of the annual Turtlerama event put on by the membership of the Sacramento Turtle and Tortoise Club. This year’s event will take place from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, July 16, at Belle Cooledge Library, located at South Land Park Drive and Fruitridge Road. The free event will include live turtles and tortoises, educational displays, and turtle adoption opportunities.
Felice Rood, founder and president of the Sacramento Turtle and Tortoise Club, is the driving force for the annual event, which marks its thirtieth anniversary this year.
“I created it back in 1981 after rescuing turtles in the area before that,” she said recently by phone. “The people who’d bring rescue turtles to me encouraged me to start a club, and now here it is, 30 years later.”
As the organizer of a successful event that has lasted for three decades, Rood said she knows what works and has no problem with trying to keep the event’s vibe the same year after year.
“We’ll have all kinds of educational information provided by our club members, we’ll have tons of displays, and all the animals will be outside,” she said. “It’s always taken place right there at the Belle Cooledge Library. We never change things; everything stays the same because it’s so popular the way it is.”
A sense of permanence is also one of the things that Rood most appreciates about turtles and tortoises.
“I like that prehistoric look they have to them,” she said with a chuckle. “I used to live in Dayton, Ohio, and my kids started bringing home box turtles all the time. Then one day, they walked in with this gigantic tortoise and my heart just started to sing and it hasn’t stopped singing since then.”
One such gigantic Greek Tortoise, known as “Jim the Jerk” (it’s an affectionate nickname, Rood swears), will be one of the show’s featured attractions. The cranky old
male just last year helped to father quintuplets after a lifetime of less than amorous behavior around plenty of females.
Rood dedicates herself to educating people about turtles and proper turtle ownership, emphasizing that owing a tortoise or turtle is a long-term commitment.
“Not all people know or realize that, and so they get something little for a pet and then they’re caught off-guard when it grows into something huge,” she said. “That’s when they have to call me.”
Another point Rood stresses is that pet turtles need natural habitats.
“I always say aquariums are for fish and artificial light is for plants,” she said, the tension in her voice evident as she recalled cases she has seen where a turtle’s growth was limited to the point of deformity by being kept in an undersized glass tank.
Rood expects the show to draw a good crowd to Belle Cooledge Library; she said mails about 850 newsletters four times a year to the membership of the Sacramento Turtle and Tortoise Club, with mailers going as far away as New York, Florida, and even the United Kingdom.
For more information about the Sacramento Turtle and Tortoise Club and Turtlerama, visit www.turtlebunker.com.