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60-foot alligator bonfire set to lead the way for Papa Noel

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GARYVILLE - Folks along the Mississippi River are preparing for a true Cajun Christmas tradition.

When the 60-foot alligator bonfire along the levee in Garyville is set on fire Christmas Eve, Papa Noel will have no problem finding his way down the river. 

The man behind this creation has been building on the levee for more than 20 years.

"We can't see ourselves not on the levee in December," Joshua Weidert said. 

If it's near Christmas time in Garyville, you can always find Weidert, his crew "Blood, Sweat and Bonfires," and their massive alligator up on the levee.

"We've been doing it since we were 12, 13 years old," Weidert said.

Their piece-by-piece work starts long before the holiday season.

"We started planning it back in July. I started working on the head at my house at about the end of October, early November. It took about 15 people three weeks to build this,” Weidert said.

Folks took an up-close look of the structure on Friday. But even though it's only wood, this gator does bite.

"You work it from the inside. There's a hatch door on the top kind of like a submarine. You climb up there, open the door and get inside through a ladder. And there's a little chair in there with a handle you can pull and it'll make the mouth open and close,” Weidert said.

On Christmas Eve, their massive 60-foot gator will go up in flames. The light will lead, Santa, better known here as Papa Noel, through Cajun Country.

"Whenever we burn it, it's a celebration of our creation, all of our hard work," Weidert said.

But folks always ask Weidert the same question: all that time, meticulous work, and energy just to burn it down?

"Just like I tell a lot of people: wedding cake designers build beautiful wedding cakes and what happens to them in the end? They get cut up and eaten,” Weidert said.

Blood, Sweat and Bonfire’s gator will be sitting up on the levee in Garyville until Christmas Eve when, just after sunset, all the bonfires will be set off.


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