Families lined up today for photos in front of a 78-foot alligator in Garyville, Louisiana (pop. 2,775). The structure, built out of firewood, is part of a string of bonfires lining the levee of the Mississippi River in St. James Parish between Garyville and Paulina. The fires—separated by refineries and chemical plants—are set to burn on Christmas Eve, to light the way for Papa Noël, part of a tradition that dates back to the 1700s.

A child poses with Santa in front a 78-foot alligator bonfire sculpture
Detail of the alligator - a painted dodge ball for each eye
Families gathered for photos in front a 78-foot wooden sculpture of an alligator, part of Garyville's annual Christmas Eve bonfires
Two of the crew members who built the structure stand in front of smoker filled with two wild hogs
Crowds gathered on the levee in front of the 78-foot alligator sculpture
Detail of the alligator - firewood stacked in patterns to mimic back and belly scales
Kids pose in front of the mouth of the sculpture for a quick photo