Although critics argue that mixing alligators and 8-year-olds is bad parenting, Florida alligator wrangler Bob Barrett calls it a party. And for $175, Barrett will bring a gator directly to a home.
Tampa-area parents looking for something more than a clown or pizza for their children's birthday parties now need look no further than Barrett's Alligator Attraction, which will bring an alligator straight to their backyard pool to swim with the children.
"It just took off like wildfire, Barrett said. "Everybody loves having the gator pool parties."
Barrett runs The Alligator Attraction of Madeira Beach, Fla., where visitors can pay to hold and feed rescued baby gators. He says the inspiration for his party idea came when business was sluggish in the summer and he saw other options that were available for children's parties.
"If you're 9, 10 or 11 years old, you've already had the 'jumparoo' house, the bounce house, you've had the pizza party, you've had the clown party," Barrett said. "You get to have a pool party with a gator. It's a very popular party."
Tampa-area mother Chris Jones opted for the alligator party idea when she was looking for something unique for son Marshall's 8th birthday party earlier this summer.
"They really were so into it," Jones said of her party's attendees.
It turns out her son wasn't the only person surprised by the reptile party guests.
"We allowed all the children to come to the party and the parents without telling them about the alligators," Jones said.
This is all safe, said Barrett, who tapes the baby gators' mouths shut before the party. He says that because the muscles they use to open their mouths are weak, there is virtually no risk of children being bitten.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has determined that Barrett isn't doing anything illegal, but added in a statement, "We will say that this is not something that we encourage."
But 8-year-old Marshall Jones doesn't care, and he wouldn't mind seeing these party animals at his house again next year.
"They go really fast," he gushed. "They're like, really cool."