An audience of 4th and 5th grade campers went crazy when he brought out a baby alligator, several snakes and lizards, as well as a tarantula.
Serengeti Steve, a.k.a. Steve Ceriotti, made himself famous when he kissed the back of a venomous Cobra snake and produced a mouthful of cockroaches during the Las Vegas show of NBC-TV’s “America’s Got Talent” last year. Also, he is in the Guinness Book of World Records for holding a venomous West African Scorpion in his mouth for 17 minutes, 17 seconds.
Steve, a former Bel-Ridge police officer, says he does about 600 Reptile Experience Shows a year and no one has ever gotten hurt. He assures that his shows are safe because he’s very familiar with how the animals react around people. He points out that his programs are about helping children face their fears and learn more about animals. “Nothing makes me happier than to see children at the end of the program, who were terrified 45-50 minutes earlier, raising their hands and begging to hold an animal. The element of fun I add makes a big difference.”
While Steve shows off the animals, he likes to slither in a few interesting facts to make it a good educational experience for kids. For instance, he tells kids that most dangerous scorpions have the largest claws and alligators aren’t really green. Additionally, he increases the comfort level for kids being around the animals. We he brings out a rat snake, he tells the audience just because the snake has teeth in his mouth, that doesn’t mean it is going to bite. “You guys have teeth, that doesn’t mean you’re going to bite and neither is the snake, I promise,” he says.
Both the Hazelwood Police and Fire Departments are hosting this three-week summer camp from June 10 to June 28. Thirty-six Hazelwood residents entering 4th and 5th grade in the 2013-2014 school year signed up to participate in this year’s event. Not only do these campers receive drug resistance classes along with safety classes, but guest speakers like Serengeti Steve are asked to come in and give presentations as well. Other fun activities include arts and crafts, sports, swimming, and self-defense classes just to name a few.
“Our primary goal with this D.A.R.E. summer camp is to show kids there are a lot of fun things to do instead of abusing their bodies with drugs and alcohol,” Hazelwood Police Department D.A.R.E. Officer/Camp Director said. “The interesting guests we bring in allow them to learn fascinating things about the world around them and to consider different career options.”
Right before Steve ended his program, he brought out a scorpion similar to the one he used for the Guinness Book of World Records. Before he put it in his mouth, he cautioned kids not to do this at home because it’s very dangerous. He said he can get away with it because he knows what to do if he gets bit since he works with dangerous animals all the time. After he successfully put the scorpion in his mouth and spit it back out, he announced his plans to break his own record later this year in California during the taping of another Guinness Book of World Records show.