They're green, mean, and lurk in the waters all around the area, but the alligator isn't just Louisiana's state reptile. It was once a major symbol of Southwest Louisiana, thanks to a fundraiser over 15 years ago called Gators on the Geaux.
Today, the cold-blooded sculptures once seen on every corner are a little harder to find. We enlisted the help of the Little Gator Hunter to help us find them and tell their story.
Brayden Fruge is our tour guide. The 9 year old in is love with all things "alligator," and when he spotted an old poster of the Gators on the Geaux several years ago, he set out to find them all.
"Right here!" he said, spotting one in the lobby of the Lake Charles Civic Center. "It's got some fireworks on it and an oak tree."
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Each of the gators is uniquely painted. From the glass mosaics on the back of one Clotile, to the bones scattered around the feet of the Gris Gris Gator, each one has its own personality.
Once upon a time, they could be seen at nearly 70 locations in Southwest Louisiana,
"It was actually implemented in 2001-2002," said Lake Charles Symphony Executive Director Shelly Appleby. "It was designed as a fundraiser for the Lake Charles Symphony and ultimately it did raise over a $150,000."
Over the years, many of the gators have gone to private homes, while others have been brought inside, out of the elements.
"Unfortunately, we've lost several to the hurricanes, either Ike or Rita, and then vandalism," said Appleby.
It's made the gators harder and harder to find. Fortunately, the expert gator hunter - with the help of his mom - has been able to locate dozens of them.
"The more he saw the more he wanted to see," said Lauren Fruge, Brayden's mom. "I think it's really, really neat. It adds something to the community for someone to see; it makes it interesting."
The renewed interest - some 15 years later - has the Lake Charles Symphony considering reviving and adding to the Gators on the Geaux collection.
"I think that it is very much a conversation that we need to have now, given the amount of economic growth and the new businesses coming to SWLA, not just the expansion of our current industry, but the new businesses," said Appleby. "So really the time is right. If we are going to do it, we need to do it now."
Of course that's great news for Brayden, who says the hunt is not over.
Be sure to follow the Little Gator Hunter on Facebook to keep up with his adventures.
Check out our map with the current locations of some of the Gators on the Geaux, and help us add to it by sending the location, name, and a picture of the gator to firstname.lastname@example.org or sending a message to Jillian Corder on Facebook.
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