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Shark Week celebration at the LI Aquarium

Manny Hernandez, 41, and Glovis Hernandez, 41, of

Manny Hernandez, 41, and Glovis Hernandez, 41, of Huntington Station, hang out with a shark mascot at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Credit: Meghan Fitzgerald

The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead is home to more than 5,000 animals, but on Saturday everyone was focused on just one kind: the shark.

Discovery Channel’s on-air personality Andy Casagrande was at the aquarium for a celebration tied to the station’s 27th annual Shark Week.

Darlene Puntillo, marketing manager for the Long Island Aquarium, said it was exciting to have Casagrande in Riverhead for the event, which included a scavenger hunt and face painting.

Casagrande also participated in a question-and-answer session at the Sea Lion Coliseum. The videographer and self-proclaimed “shark junkie” said he has always been passionate about the animals.

“For me, when I was a kid, I think the fascination far outweighed the fear,” Casagrande said.

On Saturday, he was surrounded by kids who had the same fascination.

Devin Tropea, 8, and his mother Lauri, 41, of Manorville, came to the aquarium to join the Shark Week activities. Devin talked about the size of his favorite prehistoric shark, the megalodon, as he crossed the bridge over the aquarium’s Sand Shark Lagoon.

"I want to be a diver when I grow up," Devin said. "I want to study every animal plus dive for fun.”

Casagrande, meanwhile, is preparing for his next project, where he will attempt to film Great Whites mating in an effort to better understand their behaviors.

“Great White Shark mating is the holy grail because no one really knows where or when they do it,” Casagrande said. “It will help learn how to protect them.”

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