TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Florida's year in news included a 90-year-old man arrested for feeding the homeless and a "Catholic Warrior" damaging a Satanic holiday display in the Capitol. But what else would you expect from a state where the two leading candidates for governor held up a live televised debate over a small electric fan?
Florida had the nation laughing for a few days at what was dubbed "Fangate" after Gov. Rick Scott showed up on stage seven minutes late at a debate after a dispute over the fan former Gov. Charlie Crist brought to the event, leaving the moderator perplexed.
Even before the debate, the election had a weird twist when a candidate who received 16,761 votes in the Republican primary against Scott was charged with fabricating $182,080 in donations, or basically all of them, in a scheme to get matching campaigns from the state.
But that's Florida in 2014 (or any other year), a state where people will stick just about anything in their pants — if they're even wearing them at all. Eliot Kleinberg, a Palm Beach Post reporter who is the original weird Florida archivist in what now seems to be a popular trend, says he often issues the challenge to anyone to prove another state is weirder and he's never lost an argument.
"The world has come to acknowledge Florida's weirdness. It is no longer a debate," said Kleinberg, who published "Weird Florida" in 1998 and "Weird Florida II — A State of Shock" in 2006. He also created a Weird Florida Facebook page that keeps a running tab on strange news that has more than 227,000 "likes."
"People in Florida have come to accept the weirdness as part of the normal activity," he said. "Justin Bieber could have gotten arrested for drag racing in California, but he came all the way to Miami Beach."
Even Seth Myers used his "Late Night" show to create a spoof game show called "Fake or Florida" to highlight its strange news.
This is the state where the U.S. Coast Guard had to rescue a man who tried to "run" 1,033 miles from Florida to Bermuda in a giant plastic bubble. He fell about 963 miles short.
It's the state where lottery officials promoted the fact that they gave a sexual predator $3 million — until they realized he was a sexual predator, at which point they quickly removed the photo of him holding a big check from their website.
It's the state where a blind woman sued the nudist community where she lives claiming she was harassed about the size of her service dog.
It's the state where a Tampa Bay area family of four was hospitalized after eating a bottom round roast laced with LSD and came out of the hospital a family of five after the mother gave birth to a boy while being treated for the hallucinogenic.
It's the state where the annual Chumuckla Redneck Christmas Parade was canceled because — big surprise — attendees kept drinking too much in previous years.
And it's the state where a woman wearing a Catholic Warrior shirt was charged with criminal mischief after damaging a Satanic Temple holiday display at the Capitol. A security camera picked up the offense.
Which is different than the tantrum picked up by a Tampa-area McDonald's security camera: a woman walking behind the counter wearing nothing but a thong overturning equipment, throwing food, and eating ice cream and French fries.
Three naked men were caught on a security camera breaking into a Bonita Springs restaurant and stealing 60 hamburgers, three pounds of bacon, three red peppers and a paddleboard.
Even when Floridians kept their pants on, they stuffed odd things in them, especially in DeLand, where a woman was charged with stealing seven frozen lobster tails she stuffed down her pants and a Wal-Mart security guard caught a man with two packages of cow tongue in his pants.
There was also a man in Port St. Lucie who stole a chain saw by sticking it in his pants.
That wasn't the only dangerous thing found in people's pants. A corrections officer reaching for cash at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant accidently fired his gun. The bullet shattered when it hit the floor and fragments hit a dozen people. The restaurant's name? Shooters.
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