They came as ambassadors of good will and taste. Forty-five hand-selected judges strolled into Tampa’s Ybor City Museum Sunday morning knowing their decisions would affect many.
As judges of the fourth annual Cuban Sandwich Festival, the group represented the region’s diverse heritage. Many were third and fourth generation Tampanians and, more specifically, Ybor and West Tampa descendants.
Officially dubbed the “The Big Smackdown” by event creators Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla and her husband Victor, the three-day festival drew more than 30,000 people.
Tampa police Chief Jane Castor and her partner Ana Cruz joined other notable locals who returned to judge the event. Many of them have acted as the competition’s official taste-testers since the start. Those years of experience allowed them to hone their skills and develop a method for pacing themselves.