Florida on a Tankful: Hatch your own baby gator

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, August 25, 2017, 11:19 AM EDT

Every year after school starts, the “crackdown” begins.

On the west coast of Lake Okeechobee, an annual biology lesson is in full swing.

Folks gather in Gatorama’s pole barn for what co-owner Allen Register has cupped in his hands.

"Here comes baby,” said one grandfather as he reached down and placed an egg in his granddaughter's hands.

"He's coming out already,” said 14-year-old Alex from Sarasota, with enthusiasm.

For the past decade, Alex and her family have made the trek to Gatorama this time of year for one thing: the Hatching Festival.

"It's kind of a tradition for us, because we come as a family,” said Alex’s mom, Holly.

In the weeks leading up to Labor Day, folks can put a real alligator egg in their hand and watch as new life emerges.

"To hatch the alligators and bring them into the world is a really fun experience,” Alex said.

Now attending her 10th Hatching Festival, Alex helped her 4-year-old sister Chelsea with the finer points of cracking the egg.

"You have to pick at the egg a little bit. And then you have to push it, like I did mine,” she explained.

The Hatching Festival at Gatorama puts something uniquely Florida in the palm of your hands, with no danger of getting hurt.

"It feels amazing really. It feels like I am giving birth to my child!” Alex said of the event.

This year, folks like Alex will hatch more than 3,000 eggs at Gatorama.

"Most of the eggs we have here at Gatorama came from the Public Waters Egg Collection program. That's a program the state offers to a limited number of farmers,” explained Allen Register.

Allen and his wife, Patty, have raised alligators along U.S. 27 in Glades County for more than 30 years. Inside the incubator room that warms the eggs, Allen selects what babies are prime for hatching.

For those who are reluctant, Holly says don’t be — these gators have no teeth.

"They really do make sure everybody is safe and here to have a good time,” Holly said.

"He doesn't have any teeth inside, but he does have one little grain of sand right there. And that's how he broke out of the egg,” Patty Register shared with Alex and Chelsea.

After some quality time with your baby, it's time to part ways.

"Say Goodbye! We're going to take them into the incubator,” Patty said while collecting the baby gators.

Know Before You Go:
In 20-17, Gatorama will need help birthing more than 3,000 baby alligators. Reservations are not required, but a smart idea. Sign up here. You'll find Gatorama right on U.S. 27, about an hour south of Sebring.

Tankful on Television:
Catch Florida travel stories like the one above on TV four days a week across Central Florida. The award-winning Florida on a Tankful with Scott Fais airs on News 13 Thursday through Sunday. See new segments in the Tampa Bay area as well on Bay News 9. Stories air beginning at 6 a.m. on both channels as a Spectrum exclusive.

Scott Fais on Twitter:
For behind the scenes photos, production notes from the field and Florida travel tips, follow Scott on Twitter at: @ScottFaisTV