LAKELAND, Fla. — Lakeland is known for its signature swans, but locals know that the town's real mascot was a one-eyed, three-legged alligator named Blinky.
The 11-foot, 400-pound gator, also called "One-Eyed Joe," called Lake Mirror home in the 70s. He could be seen sunbathing or crossing nearby streets on a regular basis.
According to the Lakeland Public Library, children and adults loved to feed Blinky popcorn and marshmallows.
People would pet his head and some even tried to kiss his snout. A picture in the local newspaper of the latter is what eventually led to Blinky being moved, according to the library.
The town rallied around the gator, but he was moved to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in September 1979. At the springs Blinky came across a 1000-pound crocodile named Jake.
Blinky followed Jake around and, according to an old newspaper article, he challenged Jake several times.
"Jake would just drive Blinky off without too much damage and maintain his perch on the throne of his reptilian kingdom."
That was the case until a March 3 conflict between the two ended with the death of 50-year-old Blinky in 1979.
Today, visitors to Lakeland can find a statue dedicated to Blinky in one of his favorite sunning spots. Another, more traditional, statue used to sit in the kiddie splash pad at Barnett Family Park.
Bonnet Springs Park, which is under construction, will also have a tribute to Blinky. The 100-foot long attraction would feature sounds, lights and a 30-foot slide.