In late 2022, Tampa International Airport announced it would hold a naming competition for its colossal flamingo sculpture, with the winner receiving a lot more than just bragging rights. After a final round with three contestants chosen from the original pool of entries, the name of TPA’s towering flamingo is …
Overcoming Cora and Finn in the public portion of the competition, Phoebe has triumphed as the favorite with a little more than 43% of the popular vote. Its 16,122 supporters overcame Cora by a slim margin, with Finn placing comfortably in third. TPA announced that it received 37,242 total votes in its Name The Flamingo contest.
37,000+ VOTES ARE IN AND THE WINNER IS PHOEBE 🦩— Tampa International Airport ✈️ (@FlyTPA) January 5, 2023
😱 We received 65,000+ entries in our Name the Flamingo contest
🗳️ Public voting took place last weekend on the finalists
🏆 Bryan M., the winner of our contest, will receive the prizes from @silver_airways and @BuschGardens pic.twitter.com/w04gOPLv5s
The airport also unveiled that more than 65,000 initial entries were submitted, but only three of those tens of thousands could become finalists. A panel of judges - six Hillsborough County Aviation Authority employees and artist Matthew Mazzotta - selected the names that the public could vote among.
“In my job, I’m often stationed at the Information Desk, right next to the flamingo,” Guest Experience Representative Janet Zambito remarked in a TPA release. “One of my primary responsibilities is giving tours of the Airport, and a highlight - especially for kids - is seeing this piece. I was so honored to be a part of the process to give it a nickname and look forward to seeing which name the public decides on from the three we selected.”
We now know which name the public decided upon, and we also know who was the mastermind behind it: J. Bryan M, a 63-year-old retired educator from Daytona Beach, Florida. He wasn’t the only entrant to nominate “Phoebe” as the flamingo’s name, but his purpose for the moniker is what elevated his suggestion above the rest, TPA said in a release.
“A play on Phoenicopterus - the flamingo’s scientific name ‘Phoebe’ is also a playful alternative to flamingo and means brilliantly inquisitive,” Bryan explained in his entry. “The overall ‘Home’ sculpture is literally brilliant and reveals the flamingo’s inquisitiveness as it hunts for food in the shallows.”
For his troubles, Bryan will be handsomely rewarded. As the winner of the contest, he is entitled to four roundtrip tickets on Silver Airways and a VIP experience package to Busch Gardens, which includes four single-day admission tickets, four All-Day Dining passes, four Quick Queue Unlimited passes, and preferred parking. Bryan will also be front-and-center at the reveal event in TPA’s Main Terminal.
“I went to elementary school in Tampa, just a mile down the road from Busch Gardens,” Bryan told TPA in a release. “My career has taken me all over the country, but I moved back to Florida recently. When I heard about this contest, I wanted to enter. After working in higher education for 40 years, I thought I would submit a name that tied back to the scientific name for a flamingo.”
The Story Behind Phoebe the TPA Flamingo
This isn’t the first name this sculpture has had. Originally, this piece of art was known as “HOME.” Created by Mazzotta, the name was derived from Florida serving as home to not only millions of people but also millions of other creatures living in the state’s many wild habitats. Flamingos had previously not been thought of as native to the Sunshine State, but more evidence has shown that the bird is probably a traditional Florida resident. As such, showcasing the fabulous fowl and naming the sculpture in such a way felt right.
We’re— Tampa International Airport ✈️ (@FlyTPA) June 16, 2022
⚪️ an airport
⚪️ TPA not TIA
⚪️ a home for a giant flamingo
🔘 ALL OF THE ABOVE
So, why the change? About a year after the artwork was unveiled, and well after it was originally meant to debut (thanks, Covid!), the airport and artist decided collectively to switch it up to something more conversational. Thus, the Name The Flamingo Contest was born.
The sculpture is a piece of a larger initiative from TPA. Mazzotta was one of nine artists the airport hired to help TPA’s aesthetics and Florida-fy its terminals.
“I like to think that people really notice and enjoy all the artwork,” Kelly Figley, Tampa International Airport’s public art program manager, said to FOX13 News in November 2021. “Traveling through the airport is busy. We’re coming up on our busiest time of the year and I think that the artwork really gives us an opportunity to pause for a moment and take a look at something beautiful and interesting.”
So, the next time you happen to find yourself in Tampa International Airport and you have some extra time, take a trip to meet the newly-named, forever-famed Phoebe the Flamingo!