TAMPA — Who wins in a superhero fight between the Gallant Gordita and Cotton Candy?
One wears a foam taco hat and has the power to feed the hungry — fairgoers, perhaps. The other, dressed in sleek pink, spreads cheer and sweetness.
Really, it doesn't matter, because if chosen to be part of the League of Fair-ness the two would work together to promote the Florida State Fair, which comes to Tampa in February. The real enemy: the Unfair Five — unseen forces that keep people from having fun.
At least three winners will be chosen to represent the fair in its upcoming marketing efforts.
So how does a superhero land a gig around here? It starts with American Idol-like auditions Thursday and today at the fairgrounds. As the first round of hopefuls made their pitches, it was apparent that the $20 to $25 an hour the winners will make isn't enough because only five showed up. That, or people were busy at their day jobs.
Contestant No. 1, who went by Golden Lark, strayed a bit from the guidelines of molding a character around one of the fair's aspects — food, animals, rides or games — but he certainly impressed the judges with his enthusiasm.
Stephen Shuey, 26, dressed as Golden Lark, wore a brown jerkin and purple cloth mask with prescription eyeglass lenses glued into it.
His super powers are enhanced strength, agility and intelligence. His love for fruits and vegetables are a far cry from the myriad deep-fried foods the fair offers.
"The Florida Stare Fair is the time to gain the most weight," said Shuey, a University of South Florida student. "Then fighting super villains is when I lose it."
Next came the Gordita Gallant, played by 23-year-old Justin Lawrence. He strung together his outfit with football tights, an old Halloween costume and the foam hat with the Taco Bell logo. He also wears gloves to protect his hands from the heat of gorditas and sunglasses to block the food "splatter" that he might encounter.
"The principle behind the Gallant Gordita is to try to take care of the average person who (needs) an extra boost when they're running low on fuel," said Lawrence, who attends Pasco-Hernando Community College. "With my abilities and powers, I'd find a way to feed those people and get them the proper Mexican nutrition."
Cotton Candy, also known as Jennifer Moriarty, was short on words for the judges. But she might be able to relate to that little kid at the fair whose sweet tooth begs for a sugar-filled snack.
"I think I make people smile," said Moriarty, 43, "because I'm so sweet."
Kevin Smetana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2439.