It’s campaign season again — in Lutz, that is.
The annual Lutz Guv’na Race is underway.
And, it kicks off with the 2017 Guv’na Debate on May 20 at the Old Lutz School, 18819 N. U.S. 41.
The event — which runs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. — is free and open to the public.
This year, three candidates will vie to raise the most money for their “campaigns,” with proceeds benefitting local nonprofits and community organizations.
Incumbent Guv’na Greg Gilbert, of Beef O’ Brady’s in Lutz, will square off against two first-time candidates: Kori Rankin from Kori Rankin Photography, and Jessica Sherman of Pinch A Penny in Lutz.
Throughout the fun-filled debate, the trio will field jocular questions from audience members and partake in other quirky activities, hoping to raise money for a good cause.
The event’s emcee will again be Paul Vahue of First Baptist Church in Lutz.
Attendees, meanwhile, can attach themselves to a candidate to benefit their campaigns; former Guv’na winner Stephanie Ensor of Flip Flop Embroidery Shoppe will offer a $100 campaign donation to the candidate who brings the most guests to the May 20 debate.
The annual charity event — which started in 1991— is sponsored by the Lutz Civic Association.
“This is what makes a small town a small town,” said Suzin Carr, ambassador for the Lutz Guv’na Race.
It typically raises several thousand dollars for about 20 beneficiaries, including scout troops, the Old Lutz School and Friends of the Library.
“They make community spirit what it is,” Carr said, of the beneficiaries. “They make Lutz a nice place to live.”
More than $100,000 has been raised in the past decade alone.
“There’s some years that are less, and some years that are more, but the impact…on these small groups is huge,” said Carr.
Last year’s event, like the others before it, proved particularly entertaining, thanks to a makeshift bowling competition, costume and watermelon-eating contests, and a Donald Trump-masked mystery candidate.
Besides various tasks and challenges, the debate regularly features plenty of laughs, as candidates offer up tongue-in-cheek answers to “hot button” issues surrounding Lutz.
The race continues through the Fourth of July weekend, where the winner is announced, and earns the coveted “sash” from the prior year’s winner.
The winner also typically earmarks 10 percent of what he or she raises to the organization of their choice.
Carr, a former two-time winner of the Guv’na Race, is actively seeking additional community involvement and volunteers for the Guv’na festivities.
“We want bodies out there,” she said. “When people don’t come out and support these kinds of programs, they die…and we certainly don’t want to see that.”
For more information, contact Carr at (813) 453-5256.
Published May 10, 2017