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Fans in a Frenzy over Gator Boys Future

By Brittany Wallman

SUN SENTINIAL– Fans of the Animal Planet reality show “Gator Boys” are in a frenzy, worried the gator wranglers will be kicked out of a Broward County park.

The show features a gator-capturing duo who save the day in backyard canals and swimming pools, trapping nuisance alligators by hand. And home base for the “Gator Boys” is in Broward County, about as far west as you can drive on Griffin Road, at Everglades Holiday Park. The picturesque, rustic park in western Broward was taken over by the county in June, and the TV show’s footage has been a public relations boon for the park, where the show’s stars wrestle alligators for visitors.

In recent days, though, in true Hollywood cliffhanger fashion, the finale episode of the “Gator Boys” season aired, warning viewers that the county takeover could spell the end for the “Gator Boys.” Taped months ago, the show magnified uncertainty about the county park, and indeed, the “Gator Boys” future presence there is not assured.

Titled “See you later, alligators,” the segment sparked an online outcry, with some fans threatening boycotts of the Broward park and some promising petitions.


“We’d have to find a new place to go,” co-star Paul Bedard said in the episode, “or just close ‘Gator Boys’ altogether.”

Already, because of the county takeover of the park and the uncertainty surrounding it, the show’s 2013 season won’t be shot here. The popular show, with 1 million viewers, was picked up for a second season by Animal Planet, the channel announced Wednesday.

“With the changes happening at [Everglades] Holiday Park, we were presented with the opportunity to take ‘Gator Boys’ on the road and we’re doing just that in Mississippi,” Animal Planet spokeswomen Patricia Kollappallil said.

Broward Parks and Recreation Director Dan West wants the show back. He said visitors noticeably increased because of “Gator Boys.”

He kicked into overdrive the past two days addressing worried fans and combating rumors created by the show’s last episode, which suggested that the park was closing, the airboat rentals shutting down, and the Gator Boys alligator presentation being dumped.

“They might have taken a bit of liberty, and I would say more than just a bit of liberty, saying they were unsure what the status of the airboats and other parts of the operation would be,” West said of the final episode. “We called them and said we are very encouraged by the fact it appears to be a good progam. We would be happy to host them on site, with an agreement.”

He posted assurances on the show’s Facebook page that Broward hasn’t made any changes to operations at the park, and in response, 562 people clicked the “Like”‘ button.

“Thank goodness. We love the Gator Boys,” one woman responded. “My 4-year-old cried watching the last episode thinking that the Gator Boys were over.”

Broward County took over the park from the state in June. Because it’s a county business now, the concessions, including the gator presentation, will be put out for competitive bid in the fall. West said he expects the TV star team to put in a bid to remain there and is meeting with Bedard at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the gator presentation will continue, concessionaire Clint Bridges said. His contract runs until next summer.

Bedard, who lives in Coral Gables, said he feels comfortable at Everglades Holiday Park.

“Mississippi is a nice change of pace,”he said, “but I’d love to get back to Florida and run our alligator rescue.”

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