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Halloween event draws thousands to Florida Aquarium

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 07:44 PM

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TAMPA -

With one hand, Joe Newierski kept Superman on the ground sort of.

Dressed as the Man of Steel, his 3-year-old son Jack did his best to climb the second-floor railing of The Florida Aquarium but ran into his own version of Kryptonite: Dad.

The aquarium hosted its annual Guppyween event Sunday, a pre-Halloween occasion geared toward children. In addition to exploring the aquarium's regular displays of fish and sea life, several stations were set up with candy-wielding volunteers.

"He loves all the costumes," Newierski said, as Michael Jackson's "Thriller" pumped from the aquarium's sound system. "You never get to see this many at the same place. He has a few he sees at school or his friends, but to see everybody, all the super heroes in one place, he loves it."

Organizers expected 2,500-3,000 people to walk through the aquarium's doors Sunday for the event, which started in 2002.

"It's a fun, family, safe setting for kids," said Katie Edmiston, the aquarium's marketing manager. "They get to trick or treat, as well as see over 20,000 sea creatures all in the same day. Where else can you see that?"

High winds throughout the day forced planners to cancel the Creatures of the Deep Boat Cruise and replace it with a play performed by the aquarium's education team.

Michelle Sweat and her fiancé, Matthew Shea, were at The Florida Aquarium last year when she saw a pamphlet touting Guppyween. At the time, shewas pregnant with their son, Noah.

Now 6-months-old, Noah, dressed as a bat, rested in his mother's left arm, eyes darting from one display to the next.

"This is a very good thing to do for him and his first Halloween," Sweat said. "And I love the aquarium. He gets into it.

"I've had it planned out since before he was born."

Noah was so excited during his tour of the large shark exhibit that he launched himself forward, trying to swim, his mother said. Fortunately, the thick glass kept the little bat dry.

Even Grandma enjoyed the experience.

"I love it, and it's my first time [at the aquarium]," Pam Sweat said.

Twitter: @EDanielsTrib


edaniels@tampatrib.com (813) 371-1860

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