Most alligators grow to be 10 feet long and weigh 500 pounds. But at 13 feet and more than twice normal weight, Big Al is a reptilian boxcar. "It's his girth that makes him special," extols Franca. "He's all meat."
To keep the alligator fed, Franca makes thrice-weekly trips to supermarkets, stocking whole chickens, beef slabs and liver. The food, served raw, is lowered to the gator on the end of a rope.
Franca has repeated the ritual time and again for four years, since answering an ad in a Florida newspaper. "Good with animals? Like to travel? Call me," the ad said.
It led him to an entrepreneur with an unusual assortment of animals: a Belgian horse the size of a poodle, a giant steer, a 1,200-pound pig named Harley, and, of course, Big Al.
Franca has worked with them all, but prefers the alligator. "He's low-key and doesn't need a lot. We get along swell."
Fair hours are 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday. On Friday, the fair is open from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m.; on Saturday, from noon to 1 a.m.; on Sunday, from noon to midnight. On Labor Day, Sept. 4, the last day of the fair, the hours are noon to 10 p.m. Fairgrounds are at 155 E. Ave. I, Lancaster.