Gatorland’s Oldest & Largest Gator Turns 50
Orlando, FL: The historic gator mouth entrance designed and built by Frank Godwin in 1962, will celebrate its 50th Birthday on December 20th at the theme park known internationally as the “Alligator Capital of the World.”
In December 1962, the gator’s mouth welcomed its first guests into Gatorland. At that time, donations were collected for visiting the theme park that was built next door to the living quarters of Owen and Pearl, who founded the theme park in 1949. “The entrance was just a plain door when we first opened Gatorland,” states Frank. “I wanted to build something that would make people stop as they were traveling past.”
“The giant gator jaws have stood in Orlando longer than most of the other attractions in the area have even been in business,” states Mark McHugh, President & CEO of Gatorland. “The entrance is a great symbol for the kind of special memories we create for our guests every day. We hope to continue providing these incredible experiences for at least another fifty years!”
The strength and ingenuity of Frank’s masterpiece was put to the extreme test on November 6, 2006, when a massive fire destroyed the main building attached to the mouth. When the smoke cleared, only the giant gator mouth was left standing. “It was the most incredible sight,” states McHugh. “At one point fire was blasting out of the gator’s mouth and we thought for sure it was gone. Yet it suffered no structural damage and remains one of Florida’s most nostalgic theme park icons.”
Gatorland is a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve, combining “Old Florida” charm with exciting new exhibits and entertainment. The park opened as a roadside attraction in 1949. Today, it provides affordable-priced family fun with thousands of alligators, crocodiles, an aviary, breeding marsh with observation tower, petting zoo, nature walk, educational wildlife programs, Gatorland award-winning gift shop, Florida’s best train-ride, restaurant, Gator Gully Splash Park and one-of-a-kind reptilian shows including the Gator Wrestlin’ Show, Gator Jumparoo and the Up-close Encounters Show.