DOWNTOWN — Frank Robb, the man who caught Humboldt Park’s alligator, became an overnight sensation in Chicago.
Robb’s been hailed as a hero for saving the gator, Chance the Snapper, from almost certain death in the lagoon after catching the crocodilian early Tuesday. He spoke at a news conference, threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game and even turned on Buckingham Fountain on Wednesday morning.
“I’m not famous in Florida. I wouldn’t say I’m famous here. It’s just I was able to help the city, do a service for the city,” Robb told Block Club Chicago after turning on the fountain. “I’m a very humble man and this whole thing, I’m not sure how to process it.”
Robb, who lives in eastern Florida, said he and his uncle — who taught him how to trap gators — had been following the Chance the Snapper saga in the news from home.
So it was a surprise when Chicago officials reached out to him and asked him to come catch Chance.
“We were commenting and thinking about it, saying it’d be interesting to be able to go up there and help them with this, and then we got the phone call,” Robb said. “It was shocking.”
Chance, who was first spotted in the Humboldt Park lagoon on July 9, had captivated the city for a week before Robb came: Hundreds of people came to the lagoon to get a glance at the gator, who only periodically came up to the surface. Chicagoans tried to catch him with chicken but otherwise danced, picnicked, had family time or met with neighbors along the water’s edge.
The city’s fascination with the gator, who was named Chance the Snapper through a Block Club poll, made national news.
But experts worried Chance wouldn’t survive a cold winter in the lagoon (and he might not be the friendliest to the area’s pets and people), so they called in Robb. He planned to “catch the gator incognito,” he said.
Robb arrived in the city Sunday, set up Monday and had already reeled in Chance by 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
And just like that, Robb became a hero to people throughout Chicago. People have been recognizing him on the street and stopping him, he said. They also keep giving him pizza recommendations, he said, but he’s never been to the Midwest so he’s not sure which one to try.
The attention is a far cry from what Robb experiences in Florida, where he catches about 400 gators per year — some up to 12 feet long, some just tiny hatchlings — and has worked trapping alligators for 24 years. He’s not too famous there, he said.
Robb said he plans on leaving Chicago on Thursday afternoon and doesn’t have any more events lined up for now.
But there’s good news for his fans: Robb’s single and could be looking for love in Chicago, he joked. (For those curious, he’s thinking about hitting up some museums on Wednesday afternoon.)
And Robb had kind words to say about his alligator foe, Chance: He said the gator was a “handsome little alligator” and he thinks his name is funny.
“I don’t know how to put it into words. I really don’t,” Robb said. “It’s been a great blessing.”
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