CHESTER Cub Scout Pack 495, sponsored by Kent Island United Methodist Church in Chester, hosted the annual Blue and Gold Banquet on Sunday evening, Feb. 26, celebrating the 81st birthday of Cub Scouting in the U.S.

Several longtime adult leaders were thanked and recognized for their many years of service. Michelle Abplanalp and husband-and-wife team Dale and Cheryl Cayer were all presented framed certificates of appreciation, and small gifts by Assistant Cubmaster Matt Poole. Combined, the three have been Scout leaders for 38 years, following their sons through the Scouting program over the years.

Along with a bountiful and delicious potluck dinner, Eagle Scout John Bennett, from Troop 495 (alumnus of Pack 495), presented a quick overview of his experiences in Scouting. Now a computer science student at Capital College in Laurel, Bennett, using a PowerPoint presentation, talked about the highlights of his Scouting program, from summer camps, attending the 2007 World Scout Jamboree in London, England, and his induction into the "honor society of Scouting" the Order of the Arrow.

He told the Cubs, "Stick with Boy Scouts. There are things you can do only in Scouting. Do everything you can."

The program ended with an amazing 90-minute presentation by Michael Shwedick and his assistant David Dean from Reptile World Inc. of Bowie.

Shwedick told the Cubs, "I first became interested in learning about reptiles when in elementary school. My teacher allowed me to take care of the turtles and snakes we had in our classroom as long as I would give reports about them, periodically. Forty years later, I'm still giving reports, and it's turned into a living for me."

Shwedick then awed everyone in the room by pulling out a wide assortment of reptiles, from a huge "alligator snapping turtle" to a spotted lizard, a five-foot-long alligator, a two-foot, 2-year-old crocodile and a number of snakes.

Among the snakes was a colorful, non-poisonous Mexican milk snake.

He said, "There are two poisonous snakes native to Maryland the copperhead and the timber rattle snake."

Shwedick produced a copperhead for the Cubs to see, along with a diamondback rattle snake and a cobra that was kept in a closed basket.

Everyone had to stay 15-feet back from the staging area. Shwedick, a master teacher, kept everyone calm, and, even more amazingly, the Cub Scouts were quiet almost the total hour and half.

Shwedick said, "There are over 3,000 different kinds of snakes in the world, over 4,000 different lizards, and over 300 different kinds of turtles. Most reptiles eat only once a week. Did you know the state of Florida has over 1 million alligators?"

Shwedick and Dean handled each reptile with great care, removing each from its container and then placing it just as carefully back when the lecture on each was completed.

Finally, four men were needed to lift a 280-pound, 15-foot long python from its crate. Everyone was permitted to come up and touch the python as the program concluded.

Among those watching, Eagle Scout John Bennett said, "When I was in Cubs, we'd have a magician or something, but never something on a scale like this. The alligator was very neat, but the best was the anaconda and the python at the end. Those were amazing."

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