Gatorland is getting its growl on again with Gators, Ghosts and Goblins, its Halloween event that has Octoberfest thrown in as well.
The festivities are held in daytime and, for the most part, aren’t too intense. Kids can work their way around the grounds, encountering spooky costumed characters such as a repeat-offender widow (with hearse), the grim reaper, Madame Zelda the fortuneteller, a gravedigger with shovel and Betty, a newcomer to Bubba’s Bugs B. Gone service. Most of them have candy to share.
Gatorland might have called in Bugs B. Gone because of the giant spiders included in the scavenger hunt based on cryptozoological beasts, including the attraction’s Skunk Ape and overgrown man-eating plants.
“It’s a little bit creepy … but it’s daylight,” said gravedigger/creative director Dan Carro during a Thursday preview of Gators, Ghosts and Goblins.
Gatorland tries to entertain a wide range of demographics, according to Mark McHugh, president and CEO of Gatorland.
“Small children in their costumes can come around. We’ve got four trick-or-treating areas where they can get candy. We have a great costume parade for the little ones,” he said. “But for the older crowd, the teenagers, they want a little more spookiness going in there.”
That’s where the return of Swamp Ghost’s Monster Museum comes in. The dark, enclosed area spookily displays classic monster fare along with an appearance by Swamp Ghost, a pale, costumed character with a top hat and glow-in-the-dark detailing. During last year’s Halloween event, he wandered Gatorland.
“We’re trying to keep him a little bit more under control. He goes crazy, tries to eat people,” McHugh said. “That’s what alligators do.”
On the southern end of Gatorland are more photo opportunities, including a headless horseman, a way to look like a Gatorlandized grim reaper and an eerie set of jack-o’-lanterns.
Near the front of the park is a modified Oktoberfest experience.
“We actually blended it with our Frankenstein and his bride that are wearing all of the Oktoberfest outfits and dancing with the guy with the accordion,” McHugh said. “It’s a great marriage.”
The Gators, Ghosts and Goblins event is held on Saturdays and Sunday for the rest of October. Festivities are included with regular admission.
The Halloween and Octoberfest characters are developed in-house — and are frequently portrayed — by Gatorland staff, McHugh said.
“All of these are things that we have dreamed up. There’s some generic form to it like, you know, it’s a scarecrow, but it’s a Gatorland scarecrow,” he said.
“We’ve got great characters. Those are year-round employees for us. They’re doing other jobs during the year. … They get to put on costumes and do a totally different type of entertainment and just create memories for people, and that’s our motto.”