LONG BEACH — For more than a decade, local sideshow legend Jake the Alligator Man has been attracting large crowds to his annual birthday party in downtown Long Beach.
Despite a reputation for loving them and leaving them, Jake also continues to welcome new suitors during the yearly Bride of Jake contest.
Last Saturday, a new bride was chosen for Jake, with Luna Landing (Caitlin Mattson) capturing his heart. She wowed him, and the judges, with her mixology skills — though a young taste tester from the audience “passed out” on stage after taking a drink.
The runner up was local contestant Katy Kosmic (Kate Bardonski), who came dressed in green and silver, with antennae on her head.
Another local, The Lone Stranger (Jenna Nesbitt) boot-scooted her way to the People’s Choice award, thanks in part to her talent routine, where she rode a tiny alligator around the stage to roars of laughter from the crowd.
This was the 11th year in a row that Jake took a new bride. It was also the 11th time he turned 75.
“We do the annual 75th (birthday party) for a few reasons,” said organizer Wendy Murry. “Mainly, because it’s quirky like Jake and it’s a good number (that) makes things easier.”
Organizer will retire
But while Jake will be returning next year, Murry — who is also the creator of the event — has decided to pass on the fun to someone new.
“Jake’s birthday will go on in some form,” she said, following last weekend’s party.
Murry said she has many reasons for stepping down.
She said she thinks the event needs someone to take what she and her husband Del — who has worked behind the scenes and also been the host of the Bride of Jake contest each year — have created and make organized systems to execute the different elements.
“I’m creative, not an accountant,” she said. “And as a volunteer chair, you’re asked to be all things. I am at the point where I have my hands in the mix of each element of an event with a lot of moving parts. I do an OK job at all of it, rather than a great job at the parts I’m good at.”
Murry said she also wanted to leave on a high note and pass it on to “people with fresh ideas.”
“Events get stale when they go on and on with the same people and formulas,” she said.
Lots of interest
Murry had been wondering and stressing a little, about who would take up the mantle, but said she was approached by multiple people over the weekend who offered to take it on.
Overall, Murry said she believes the event has been a success that has grown over the past decade.
“I guess it’s not a change or improvement I’m most pleased with as much as it was a giant art project with many incredible artists from up and down the West Coast and beyond who came together to create items for the event and perform music, burlesque and other performance art,” she said.
Murry also gave credit to Missy and John Bageant, Monica Morley, Bardonski and Joy and Bob Roughton for all of their hard work and assistance through the years.
“The event made art connections and collaborations that have nothing to do with Jake in places far from Long Beach,” Murry said.