A few turned and hightailed it away from the tank filled with mealworms and cockroaches. But many, many others reached into the teeming mass of insects to search for a small prize. Meanwhile, over 7,000 attendees grabbed a picture with Steely, an eight-foot, fourth-pound boa constrictor.

The Happy Tails corner was a destination for many visitors to the Steele County Free Fair in Owatonna. Pet store owner Barry Benjamin was nearly hoarse Sunday evening from chatting with throngs of people in his second year of bringing reptiles, snakes, insects, and a tarantula from his store in the Medford Outlet Center to the Great Outdoors Center.

He says kids were quick to embrace, or be embraced by, the exotic animals, "We actually had a three-year-old yesterday that I tied her around five times. It was a great picture."

"We have kind of a double reaction. Some stay away. Others just want to hold her forever. They realize that she's cool. So, on these hot days, it makes it really, really nice."

Happy Tails owner Barry Benjamin

Fairgoers could touch and feed tortoises and bearded dragons. Benjamin said the animals ate way more than their normal dietary intake, essentially just like the humans that were feeding them.

"We brought our little test-your-limit box. So, we have 20,000 insects. But underneath those are shark teeth you can keep and bring home." He went through more than five pounds of shark teeth and lost track of how many dug into the insects. Benjamin said one parent held their two-year-over the tank so the child could dig through the bugs, including mealworms and cockroaches.

worms and cockroaches
Roy Koenig/TSM

Benjamin says Steely, the boa constrictor is "a picky eater. She wants rats. She won't eat rabbits, which at her size she should eat. But she wants rats instead, so we comfort her with those." But no cheese curds.


Don't Hike These 5 Haunted Minnesota Trails Alone

Spooky season is right around the corner but it's never too early to talk about allegedly haunted places in Minnesota! These are 5 locations around our state that shouldn't be checked out alone.

LOOK: Home 12 Miles from Rochester Has River View from Every Window!

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List Price: $699,000

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