On December 5th, 2013 The Village Square at the St. Petersburg College Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions hosted an event entitled: Oh, Florida: Capital of Weirdness. The main speaker at the event was Professor Emeritus of Florida History at USF St. Petersburg, prolific author, and historian Dr. Gary Mormino. Dr. Mormino spoke about some of Florida’s weird, and sometimes humorous, news stories that have been widely reported upon across the country. He also discussed how these stories have become so uniquely synonymous with our state.
The 2000 election debacle, the “zombie” in Miami who practically ate a man’s entire face, half of the state being of a more Caribbean mindset, as opposed to the northern part of Florida, which is more of a deeply southern place, there’s no doubting that Florida is, to put it lightly, “unique.” The question is not if Florida is weird, but rather why is Florida so weird?
According to Dr. Mormino, there are 3 major theories. First: weird people naturally migrate to Florida, which sounds sort of odd but. if thought about the right way, makes an odd kind of sense. If in the late 19th century you decided that you wanted to move to Florida, you would’ve had to have been crazy. Imagine the Florida summers without air conditioning, not to mention that Florida was a practically desolate, over drenched rural state. It was just not a comfortable place to live.
The second theory is that when people come to Florida they are normal. People just like you and me. But once they get here, the “ethos” of Florida molds them into a slightly weirder, slightly sweatier human being. For better or for worse, the “pixie dust” just changes people down here.
The third and, in my opinion, most intriguing theory has to do with tourism. Roughly 19 million people live in Florida. By contrast, 90 million people visit Florida each year. To underscore this, more than four times as many people go on vacation in Florida than the amount of people who live here year-round. The theory is that people on vacation are more “relaxed,” possibly due to alcohol, than the natives. As a result, some weird things happen, like described above.
Dr. Mormino’s presentation clearly underscored the uniqueness and value that Florida maintains. From politics to natural resources, Florida is an important player on the national stage. We will soon overtake New York as the third most populous state in the union. No matter how weird, no matter how special, Florida will, for better or worse, be an integral piece of the puzzle that is the United States of America.