There were nervous giggles and wide eyes in the stands as Jeff Quattrocchi pinned a 7-foot, 9-inch alligator in a pool on the Bandshell Lawn at the Oklahoma State Fair.
“The Swampmaster” demonstrated Monday how to handle and bulldog an alligator, all the while providing educational information about the American alligator.
Bulldogging is a technique alligator handlers use to tie the animal's jaw shut by sitting on top of the alligator and pinning its jaw between their chest and chin.
Since Thursday, Quattrocchi and Ryan “Forklift” Lippert, head of alligator security, have put on three shows a day, at 12:30,1, 4:30 and 7:30 p.m., and will continue their shows for the duration of the fair.
“All the alligators in my show are considered nuisance alligators, sentenced to death by the state of Florida,” Quattrocchi said. “They got too close to people or were chasing someone's dogs.”
He said he has worked out a deal with the alligator trappers to buy the alligators from them, use them in his shows for up to five days, then send them back to his property in Naples, Fla., where they can live out the rest of their lives with his 150 other retired alligators.
“I put on a real show,” he said. “There's no smoke and mirrors where the people put their heads in their mouths, you can't do that.”
Normally they let people pet their baby alligators, but the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation decided on a no-contact rule when it comes to his show. Oklahoma is one of the four states that do not allow contact in alligator shows.
Steve Williams, of Oklahoma City, brought his children, McKenzee, 11, and James, 6, to the fair Monday, when children were admitted free.
“Getting to see the alligators up close” was McKenzee's favorite part of the gator show. “It'd be nice to touch them.”
The Swampmaster's last appearance at the fair was in 2004. He has already been asked to come back for the next couple years and said he is hoping the no-contact law changes.
“If you want to see a great show, come back later this week because with this alligator in the back, we'll go out with a bang,” Quattrocchi said.