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The Gators Are Coming

Alligator sightings are no longer confined to Big Cypress swamp or reptile-friendly golf courses. You can now spot the toothy critters at restaurants, realty companies and banks throughout Collier County.

What's luring alligators to the streets of Naples? Gators Galore, a public art display.

Taking their cue from other successful national and international exhibitions, the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County teamed with the von Liebig Art Guild of the Naples Art Association to develop the event with a Southwest Florida spin-alligators.

"We wanted to deliver a first-class, whimsical art event," says Natasha Alveshire, director of marketing and events for the Boys & Girls Club. "We wanted an animal indigenous to the area, and nobody had done an alligator yet."

Each 6-foot-tall, fiberglass 'gator is the prized decoration of a locally or nationally known artist, including Jonathan Green, Kathy Spalding and Clyde Butcher of Naples as well as Pablo Cano and Philip Taaffe of New York and Ellen Gallagher and Annette Lemieux of Massachusetts.

Area patrons, 50 to 75 in all, are sponsoring a 'gator for display in front of their place of business, Jan. 10 through April 5.

You can come face-to-face with a creatively designed reptile while purchasing wine at Bacchus and Co. on Fifth Avenue, shopping at Bingham Jewelers on U.S. 41, or strolling along the Naples Pier.

Alligators can be spotted as far north as Vanderbilt Beach Road and as far east as Fiddler's Creek. Gator Locator maps will be available and trolley tours will visit the most popular 'gator sights.

On the evening of April 5, the 'gators will be auctioned off to the public with all proceeds benefiting the two organizations. "We are hoping to achieve $150,000 for each organization," Alveshire says.

"This is an ideal project because it is using art to raise money for children and art," says Lois Selfon, president of the von Liebig Art Guild.

"It's going to be a fun, exciting event for the whole community," predicts Lea Smith, vice chair of resource.

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