Twelve-year-old Brooke Switzer of Clovis got a wet surprise Wednesday at the Curry County Fair when an 8-foot alligator decided to play water tag with her.
Switzer and her family were sitting in the front row watching the Swampmaster’s Gator Show when the reptile churned the water to escape Swampmaster Jeff Quattrocchi’s clutches.
“I got splashed at the beginning of the show when he (Quattrocchi) was trying to catch it,” the young Switzer said. “It was fun to watch.”
“We kind of wondered why not many people were sitting on the front row even though the stands were crowded,” said Switzer’s mother, Sharon. “Now we know.”
Quattrocchi said he has been pleased with the size of the audience that fills the five sets of bleachers around his small alligator pond for three performances a day during the fair.
“The crowds here are awesome,” he said. “From Day 1, my stands were full. It was packed. People come out for gators in New Mexico. It’s exciting to me. I do the same show for five people or 500.”
Quattrocchi, who says he “handles” gators instead of “wrestles” them since alligators “don’t know anything about wrestling,” shares educational facts and details about the reptiles during his performance.
“It was pretty interesting,” said Paul Caldwell, 31, of Clovis. “The most impressive part was when he pulled out him in the center of the pond and opened the gator’s mouth.”
Lori Kaser, 41, of Clovis, described the show as “very informative and educational.”
“I liked his style,” she said. “He had a really good presentation.”
Miranda Anderson, 10, of Clovis, said she has a family member in the alligator business.
“I think the Swampmaster is cool,” she said. “I have a cousin who captures alligators and crocodiles in Florida — mean ones. He does it for fun and for zoos, I think.”
Patty Rogers, 45, said her kids loved the show.
“We came early just to see the alligators,” she said. “It’s amazing to me how he can handle those alligators and not get his hands bit off.”
At the end of the show, Quattrocchi allows the audience to come to the stage area and “pet” a baby alligator and have their photo taken with it for $5 each.
“It felt soft on its tummy and scaly on the back,” said 9-year-old J.T. Skaggs of Clovis. “I liked how the Swampmaster put the alligator’s mouth between his chest and his chin.”
J.T.’s 4-year-old sister, Sierra, said she liked the little alligator named “Wally.”
“I got to pet him,” she said. “He was scaly.”