Art & Gator Travel follows Chad Crawford
His “how to Do Florida” television series inspires locals and visitors to experience real Florida
Chad Crawford has been bitten by a blue crab, stung by jellyfish, and flipped out of a kayak; but that’s just another day at the office for the creator, director, and host of “how to Do Florida.” Now entering its fourth season, the Florida for dummies-type family travel show is designed to get people excited about living in and visiting what Crawford, a third generation Floridian, calls “real Florida.”
“Our treasures aren’t in our galleries or in our architecture,” Crawford says. “We may not have a Smithsonian, but we have the Everglades, the Ocala National Forest, and intracoastal waterways. These are our treasures. They can’t be collected; they have to be explored and that can be a barrier for people.”
In the 48 episodes he has created since he began the series in 2010, Crawford aims to eliminate those barriers by giving viewers an easy ‘how to’ guide for experiencing an endless array of Florida adventures
“It all started when I created a fishing instruction video for friends and they loved it so much that it got me thinking about how many people don’t know how to ‘do’ Florida,” says Crawford, who already ran a successful television production company with is wife, Kristy, in Lake Mary. After auditioning 40 hosts and coming up empty, Kristy suggested that he take the role. “I shot one show and I’ve never looked back. It feels good to be in front of the camera. Turns out I have a lot to say and that character comes natural to me.”
From end to end, Crawford and his production team (which sometimes includes Kristy and all or some of his four kids) travel across Florida meeting with experts in everything from scalloping in the Steinhatchee, swimming with manatee in the Crystal River, to fishing for swordfish off the Florida Keys.
“I have counted about 160 activities that I have done in over 400 destinations. As far as I know, nobody in Florida has seen Florida like I have,” Crawford says. “Some of my greatest memories include paddling down the Suwannee River with my son and visiting places that don’t look much different than they did 500 years ago. They feel timeless.”
Besides the chance to be what Crawford calls ‘an evangelist for Florida,’ he’s also passionate about encouraging families to get outside. “So much of our world is concrete and man-made. The show not only encourages people to get outdoors and reconnect with each other, but it shows them how to do it,” he says. “These experiences take planning. Planning a camping a trip takes a lot, but believe me, those memories will remain with these kids for the rest their lives.”
With a 15-month cycle beginning with 13 weeks of airing on ABC affiliates stations in Florida and Alabama followed by a year on cable, “how to Do Florida” reached an estimated 14 million viewers last year.
Looking back now, Crawford is glad that he and Kristy stuck with the series, even when its prospects weren’t so bright. “With any kind of reward in life comes risk. We took a tremendous financial risk doing this show but I knew I needed to do it well and had very high standards coming from the industry I was in,” Crawford says. “We put a lot of money into the show because it was always about local content and national quality.”
Before the first season was completed, Crawford had run through his budget. “I had to go to my parents to ask for more money to finish out the first season,” he laughs. But after the season was done and people saw that he had created a good show, sponsors came on board. “There were definitely times that we thought this might not work, but we believed and kept pressing forward until eventually it just caught on.”
Crawford humbly admits that he couldn’t have done it without his greatest supporter. “Kristy was really in my corner,” he says. “At our first premier, I brought her up front and thanked her for giving me the permission to fail. All along the way, she said it was okay if this didn’t work.”
But it did. On May 30 Crawford will premier the fourth season of “how to Do Florida” during an industry party he annually hosts at Enzian theater in Maitland. “People ask me if I am going to run out of content. And I think, are you joking? This isn’t Ohio. This is Florida. I’ll never run out of things to see and do here.”
See Preview of Season 4
To learn more about Chad and his “how to Do Florida” team visit here.