By Michaela N. Vincent, CNN
It’s not the kind of social gathering you see every day: As family and friends watch from a safe distance — recording the moment on their phones — a man in a yard tries to feed a watermelon to a large alligator.
After a few failed attempts, he wedges the melon into the alligator’s jaws. The gator chomps down and the melon splits open, spattering blue goo everywhere.
The crowd erupts in cheers.
“It’s a boy!” someone shouts.
Welcome to the world of gender reveal parties, where pretty much anything goes. Years ago, couples announcing the gender of their unborn child just did something simple, like slice open a blue (boy) or pink (girl) cake.
But these days gender reveals, like baby showers and “promposals,” are getting more common, creative — and over the top.
Indeed, what was once a private intimate moment has become, in many cases, a game of social media one upmanship.
“The reveals get crazier and crazier. It really is a fascinating thing, but it’s directly tied to social media.” says Carly Gieseler of the CIty University of New York. She wrote an academic paper that looked at the phenomenon that looked at how gender-reveals spoke to a deeper need than an excuse for a party.
“In some ways, it’s great, it’s a celebration, it’s visual. But it might be a thing where parents-to-be feel pressure to celebrate the birth,” she told CNN. “I think there’s a competitive edge to a lot of people. Social media displays that, and it fuels the fire.”
From Party City to Pinterest
The trend has retailers and websites scrambling to cater to the demand.
Party City, which has more than 900 retail stores in North America, said the popularity of these parties is the reason they launched a gender reveal party line in 2016.
Ryan Vero, the chain’s president of retail, says the retailer sells nearly one million gender reveal party items a year, including tableware, decorations and balloons. And Party City plans to double its shelf space for gender reveal products, he says.
Pinterest, the online bulletin board where users seek images to spark creative inspiration, says searches for “creative gender reveal ideas” are up nearly 400% over last year.
And what is a party without cake? Publix, the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States, said customers’ requests are the reason its bakeries began making gender reveal cakes two years ago.
Even celebrities aren’t immune from the trend.
Actress Kate Hudson and boyfriend Danny Fujikawa announced on Instagram in April that they are expecting a baby girl. The pair posted a video showing them popping large balloons and cheering after pink confetti spilled out.
The Bulls game reveal
Some parents try to match their gender reveals to their passions.
Shatesha Boyce and fiancé Michael Holder summoned 48 of their relatives and friends to a Chicago Bulls game last November.
“My fiancé is a huge basketball fan,” Boyce says. “He said why don’t we do the reveal at a game? Someone would love to see it on the JumboTron.”
The big moment was planned for halftime. Once the first half ended, the couple and their entourage gazed up expectantly at the giant video screen.
“We were staring and saying, “Oh my God, when are they going to put it up?” Boyce says.
Moments later, the crowd of 20,000 cheered when the screen revealed they were expecting a girl.
Boyce says she would have been happy either way. “I just hope for a healthy baby.”
The firefighter reveal
When Erica Tubbs saw a firefighter-inspired gender reveal on Facebook, she knew when the time came that was what she and her firefighter husband Justin would do.
“I told my husband whenever we have kids, this is what we’re doing,” said Tubbs, of Covington, Georgia. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.”
Fast forward three years and the Tubbs are expecting their first child. Of course, their gender reveal involved a fire truck and a fire hose.
With the blessing of the Atlanta suburb of Decatur with help from his Decatur Fire and Rescue comrades, Justin Tubbs planned the reveal during a training exercise in February. “We used food coloring my wife and I purchased,” he said.
The couple held the hose together and watched as it began spouting pink water. They are expecting a daughter in July.
The gator reveal
Then there’s the Kliebert family of Ponchatoula, Louisiana.
When Michael “T-Mike” Kliebert and his expectant girlfriend Rebecca Miller wanted to announce the sex of their child, they turned to an old family friend — a 61-year-old alligator named Sally.
“We were searching for exciting and new ways do a reveal,” Kliebert says. “We also wanted to incorporate our family, lifestyle and heritage into the reveal.”
Kliebert’s family owns Kliebert’s Turtle & Alligator Farm, which he says is Louisiana’s first. It’s where Sally was hatched by his grandfather in 1957.
So as family and friends watched at an outdoor gathering in March, Kliebert pitched a watermelon into Sally’s mouth to reveal blue Jell-O. He learned the baby’s gender along with everyone else.
Afterwards, the Kliebert family smiled and posed for photos with Sally. A Facebook video of their unique gender reveal has more than 8 million views.
“Sally has been in the family for four generations,” said Kliebert, adding that he and his relatives are proud alligator conservationists and hunters.
“It was an honor to use her.”