Florida traditional Thanksgiving: Gators and ’taters

Posted 11/23/20

Whole gator cook-offs are certainly a fun and unique way to celebrate Florida’s rich history.

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Florida traditional Thanksgiving: Gators and ’taters


LABELLE — Cornbread dressing, green bean casserole and sweet potatoes are some of the expected dishes on the table this week. But you might not envision a whole alligator served alongside the mashed potatoes, when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. Whole gator cook-offs are certainly a fun and unique way to celebrate Florida’s rich history. Throughout history, families have eaten alligator. From fried to barbecued, or even oven roasted with lemon grass and garlic, alligator is a deliciously exciting way to jazz up a holiday meal. But where would you go to get a whole, prepared alligator, ready for cooking? Look no further than Hansen Alligators LLC.

“Since we started selling whole gators we have always been excited to see how our customers cook each gator and to see the final product. We have seen customers wrap gators in bacon, top them with pineapple, stuff them with sausage, add stuffing, etc,” said LaBelle native and former elementary school teacher Holly Hansen, who manages Hansen Alligators with her husband, Jacob. They have been supplying whole ready-to-cook alligators to their customers for just over a year now; however, gators run much further back in their family’s history.

“My husband is also a native Floridian; his family has been in the Fort Myers area for 30-plus years. My husband’s Pappy, as he called him, was the first nuisance alligator trapper for Lee and Charlotte county, in the late 1980s, when the program originally started,” explained Holly. “From there his father followed in his footsteps and is presently the trapper for Lee and Charlotte county. My husband has been helping trap gators since he was old enough to do so, and continues to help his father on the side.”

“Growing up in LaBelle, there has always been a family dynamic to the town. Seeing the town grow, especially the revitalization events, brings such a sense of pride. Seeing the people I grew up with starting businesses and building the town up, it just adds to the community and connection within.” The small-town charm and character of LaBelle is what brought them back to the area, after meeting each other in Fort Myers. “LaBelle is one of the few towns that still has the small town, old Florida feel to it. We wanted to establish our roots somewhere that our future family would be able to grow and not get lost in the bustle of city life,” Holly said.

Motivated by their newborn baby son and strong family values, Jacob attends iTech and is on his way to becoming a heavy equipment technician while Holly is focused on expanding their alligator business.

“Our business is definitely unique. I never grew up thinking I would one day be selling alligators for people to put on a grill for their next family cook-off. We have met a variety of people in the past year, and one thing we always hear from customers is how the gator was the talk of their event/party and makes their event one to remember for the books. We love that our products are able to bring people together and make fond memories,” she said. The couple also takes enormous pride in providing quality products at affordable prices.

One of the things she enjoys the most about managing Hansen Alligators is “meeting people from all over. We have customers all over the U.S. and from all different walks of life.”

For the future, the Hansens hope to continue to grow and expand their business. “We want our products to become a part of family traditions for years to come.”

They have even been working to organize an inaugural Gator Fest in January 2021. The first of many, they hope. “So, this summer during our summer sale I had customers sending me more pictures as they usually do, and I looked at my husband and I remember telling him we need to host a cook-off, “ said Holly. The look on her husband’s face revealed a bit of confusion, but Holly was determined. “That was the beginning of the end, and I have worked diligently to bring the idea to reality ever since.”

Gator Fest will be held Jan. 16, 2021 at Barron Park and will consist of a gator cook-off with a whole gator division and a gator rib division. The event will have live music, craft vendors, food trucks and more.

“We are excited to host an event like this that will bring more people to our small town,” Holly said enthusiastically. For details on Gator Fest or to order a gator for your next event, follow the Hansens on Facebook and Instagram, at Hansen Alligators. “We post all of our specials and event updates on there. We also share customer photos and recipes as well!”

To place an order you may also call 239-789-3716, or visit their website:

thanksgiving, alligator, cook off