'Swamp People' Turns Market Area Into NYC Marsh

Stars of History hit series Swamp People will be patroling a corner of New York City's Chelsea Market, where a veritable pop-up flooded forest is promoting Louisiana tourism and the show's Feb. 9 return for a third season.

The opening on Thursday featured Bruce Mitchell, also known as The Alligator Man, who hunts gators in the show with the help of his dog, Tyler.

Also on board were 10 live examples of Mitchell's reptilian prey, including a cuddly four-footer named Abby that he carried around (with its mouth bound shut) for second-graders from local P.S. 150 to pet and ask questions of such as, "Is that real?"

The exhibit remains open daily through Sunday, Feb. 12. Some stats: it contains 6,500 gallons of water, live cypress trees up to 15-plus-feet-tall, more than 1,000 plants indigenous to the region, and there's a dock extending above the water from which to view American alligators and red-eared slider turtles.

History previously raised awareness of the show (which averaged 4.1 million viewers in season 2, up 32% from season 1) in the Big Apple by putting fake manhole covers on city sidewalks with fake gators crawling out.

After opting to up the ante with this 11-day exhibit, the network reached out to Louisiana Tourism, which would love to attract more visitors to the show's Atchafalaya River Basin setting and other areas.

"Not all of Louisiana is a swamp," Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said at the "Swamp In The City" exhibit opening, explaining that local cuisine, such as the gumbo that chef John Folse spooned out and the Zydeco music that quartet Sac Au Lait played in the background, were other good reasons to visit.

SVP of development and programming Dirk Hoogstra said History was "thankful to be there in frankly what I think is one of the most beautiful places in the world." He added: "It's like stepping back in time" to when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Mitchell told Multichannel News his Atchafalaya home hasn't been overrun with tourists, at least not yet, but he said he and fellow castmates Trapper Joe, Troy Landry and the others are enjoying new-found fame. "We never meet a stranger. Everywhere we go everybody knows us. And we're just having fun with it."

Landry, who'll feature in History's "Swamper Bowl" ad on Sunday, will be at the Chelsea Market swamp Feb. 7-8. Trapper Joe and Tommy are slated to appear Feb. 5-6.

Mitchell wouldn't spill any secrets about season 3, which debuts at 9 p.m. Thursday. "I just can't explain it, you're going to have to watch it."

History is setting up a live Gator Cam for fans who can't make it to the market (on Ninth Avenue and 15th Street). The cam can be linked to at www.history.com/gatorcam.

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Nexttv.com. Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.