October 21, 2008
Lowndes Co.- No one sits on the metal bleacher seats, but Wildlife Conservationist Chris Hart performs as if hundreds of people watched his show.
Why talk to an empty arena?
He does it for the animals in his show to remember their parts and not get distracted by people in the audience.
"They love to get out here and perform," says Chris who started his animal shows almost 20 years ago as a teenager.
He says the animals-fox, alligator, kinkajou, snakes-get excited in their cages when he plays the show's opening music.
"It's show time," says Chris as he walks to stage left and opens a wooden box where a kinkajou stays before the show. Chris lifts him out by the tail.
It looks like a monkey.
"It's not a monkey whatsoever. It's closest living relative, believe it or not, is a red panda, comes from the raccoon family," says Chris.
The kinkajou scurries along wooden branches between the stage and the audience, where he nibbles pieces of banana strategically placed for the animal to stop where everyone can easily see it.
"You're a good boy," says Chris to the kinkajou as it exits the wood railing to go back into his cage.
Something seems odd about Chris, besides performing without an audience. The oddity reveals itself about sundown to special people. His alter ego, subdued for almost a year, becomes obvious. He's Dr. Baboon, a mad-scientist type who wears a bright pink, flared lab coat, a wig with two areas of white hair and very thick glasses.
"He's the part of my personality that people don't often see. Dr. Baboon only comes out one time a year and he really looks forward to it," says Chris.
He plays the part so well that some of his co-workers didn't realize he plays the role. Chris wrote the family oriented script so as not to terrify or scare children.
"I'm a scaredy cat myself. I get scared, too. It was easy to come up with a character so that way I don't have to be scared. I can help the little kids laugh a little bit," says Chris who says he hasn't been through Wild Adventures (Wildadventures.net) "Phobia" Halloween attraction.
He often makes 40 performances a night of Dr. Baboon as hay ride after hay ride stops by to see his show about a monster that needs a head. Dr. Baboon literally measures arms of some riders to see if they will fit his future creations, as a volunteer draws a face on a balloon.
When, Dr. Baboon attaches the head, the monster comes to life and follows the trailers, all in good fun. After all, Halloween brings out strange things.