Visit Winona — the organization that markets the town of Winona, Minnesota — used an email blast and a spoof website to promote the chance to swim with American alligators in Winona as an April Fool’s joke.
Global warming has not yet extended the normal alligator range to Wisconsin. But Visit Winona said a new company called Minnesota Gators would allow guests could hand-feed and even swim with the reptiles.
"They love to bask in the sun next to you on the beach, and your kids will love running from the mothers defending their eggs,” the copy reads, adding: "Kids never forget the first time they lose a finger."
The website features a photo of a woman holding an alligator in the water, and boasts of a 62% safety record. It says “there’s only place left in America where you can legally swim with alligators. Minnesota Gators ™ has the only Alligator Petting Zoo license in the entire United States.”
Why this stunt?
"People more and more are looking for something different, not just in a destination but in the way you reach out to them,” states Visit Winona marketer Cynthya Porter, who created the protect with Shane Morris of Houston’s Bee Morris Agency.
Porter adds, “We at Visit Winona believe that if you can give people a laugh, they are far more likely to think of your destination as a place they can come and let their hair down.”