Which Florida Man best embodies the state’s spirit? A new contest will decide.

Freddy the Friendly Alligator, the mascot for the South Florida Water Management District, sits in the shade at a media event June 16, 2022, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky/AP)Pete Melfi knows the legend of the “Florida Man” — the individual at the center of bizarre, profane or unbelievable headlines that always seem to involve a miscreant from the Sunshine State — better than most. Melfi, who runs a news podcast in St. Augustine, has spent years reporting and reading about them.

Amid the meme’s decline, Melfi thinks there’s a modern way to embrace the character of the Florida Man in a way that his fellow Floridians will enjoy — legally.“I just thought, ‘How do we give people a chance to live this Florida Man lifestyle … without going to jail?’” Melfi told The Washington Post.

Melfi said the event, which is scheduled for February in St. Augustine, has been well received since it was announced in September.“I want a full day of just belly laughs, like we laugh at these stories,” Melfi said. headtopics.com

The phrase “Florida Man” first peaked in 2012, according to Google Trends data, and gained even more popularity with the rise of the @_FloridaMan Twitter account, which promised “Real-life stories of the world’s worst superhero.”” proposed, and you’d find a range of stories from the strange to the profane, from “Florida man threw salsa jar at car in fit of road rage” to “Florida man in Spider-Man mask steals bottles from liquor store.

“It’s just a constant bonanza for news organizations who are covering this place,” said Craig Pittman, a journalist and author from Pensacola. “I always tell people, if you want to live where it’s boring, move to one of those square states out west, move to Nebraska or someplace. But if you want to live in a place where every day you open the paper, or turn on the news on TV or radio and you say, ‘Wow, a guy punched a swan today!’ — this is the place to live. headtopics.com

Over the years, news outlets phased out or toned down their Florida Man headlines as critics pointed out that the subjects of those stories were often struggling with drug addiction or mental illness. Freddie Campion, who created the @_FloridaMan Twitter handle, retired the account in 2019 out of concern that he was “essentially making fun of people on the worst day of their lives,” heMelfi is aware of the concerns.

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