The sounds of Gloria Estefan and Will Smith blared over the speakers in downtown Miami Wednesday as a group of security officers rode into the Bayside Marketplace on Segways.
Congregating in the center of an audience space, the guards momentarily started dancing on their vehicles to the cheers of the crowd, kicking off what the city of Miami hopes to become a long-continuing tradition. These cheers would only intensify as they saw who followed them: actor Kevin James.
In a recent effort to boost tourism and recognition, Bayside has become home to a new downtown Miami tradition, the Official Miami Walk of Fame.
Modeled after the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, the new attraction honors those in the entertainment industry who have, according to their website, “contributed to the charisma, worldwide prominence and name recognition of Miami.”
Previous ceremonies have honored actors Andy Garcia and Jamie Foxx for their work in last year’s animated film “Rio 2,” and Bobby Cannavale for his work in December’s musical film “Annie,” in which Foxx also had a starring role.
Wednesday marked the third ceremony for the Miami Walk of Fame, honoring James with his own star along the Bayside entrance. Themed around the release of his new film “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” the actor rode in on a Segway, much like his character does in the movie, alongside co-star Eduardo Verástegui and the Bayside security team.
Not long after, an official presentation honored James with his own key to the city, presented by Bayside’s Senior General Manager, Pam Weller, Orange House Committee chair Monty Trainer and Deputy City Manager Alice Bravo, filling in for Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado.
Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes was on hand to give James the award. The key serves as a symbolic honor of the actor’s success in the entertainment industry as a South Florida resident.
“I’m gonna use this key everywhere I go,” James quipped to The Miami Hurricane.
The ceremony also took the time to honor security director Elder “Pani” Paniagua for his 18 years of service at the marketplace. Accepting the award, Pani took the time to thank the Miami police and his fellow troops at Bayside.
“Without them, I’m actually nobody,” he said.
Immediately after receiving his honor, James made sure to thank Pani and the security team standing before him.
“You guys are the real heroes,” he said.
Before James was presented with his star, Verástegui, a noted telenovela star, thanked the crowd and the city, acknowledging how happy he was to represent “Mall Cop 2” in Miami.
“The message [of the film] is very simple,” Verástegui said. “Do not be afraid to be the hero you’re meant to be.”
With this newest induction to the Miami Walk of Fame, the attraction continues to grow in size. The organization hopes to have it extend alongside the entire stretch of the marketplace, giving tourists and Miami residents another reason to visit the area.
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” opens in theaters April 17. A stream of the event can be found at miamiwalkoffame.com.
Featured image courtesy Flickr user Marco