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Live advertising towers over the crowd in Manteca
Michael Cameron helps get the word out about Papa Joe’s BBQ while waving to motorists at North Main and Alameda streets. - photo by HIME ROMERO
It’s not the old western sheriff’s badge or the O.K. Corral-era outfit that draws attention to 26-year old Michael Cameron as he stands along North Main Street at Alameda Street advertising chicken and ribs for Big Pa Pa Joe’s BBQ.

It’s the stilts.

Standing roughly 10-foot tall but less than bulletproof, Cameron – part of a group of performers called Tip Hat Shows – spends the bulk of the afternoon four days a week entertaining passersbys and drawing attention to the restaurant that moved into a permanent location when Fred’s Beer House finally closed down.

And while not everybody sends the most cordial greetings to Cameron during his shift, it isn’t uncommon for a carload of children to pull up into the empty used car lot where he stands and pose for pictures with the giant cowboy.

“I grew up in a family of performers, and doing things like this for people is something that I’ve always loved,” said Cameron – who can portray everyone from a feudal lord to a harlequin jester. “Sometimes the spotlight is not always in front of you, it’s above you, and working on those stilts helps make that even more clear.”

Welcome to Manteca’s newest form of advertisement.

While it hasn’t been uncommon for businesses to take to the streets with people to spread their message – a move made famous locally by the Little Caesars pizza-sign spinner at the corner of Louise Avenue and Main Street – even more have incorporating unique advertising in hoping to snare customers.

As most residents were still shaking out the cobwebs from their New Year’s celebrations, the Liberty Tax Preparation firm on North Main Street started dressing employees up as national icons figures like Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty to remind them that April 15 is fast approaching.

And then there is Mr. Pickle – a mascot best embodied by breakdance enthusiast Sal Lopez who uses handstands and creative dance moves to wow traffic at the busy Yosemite Avenue/Commerce Drive intersection.

Cameron spend some time on his stilts as Mr. Pickle, but cutbacks forced him to find work elsewhere.

The craze did, however, recently land Sierra High senior Donnie Suesens in a suit of his own advertising a product along one of Manteca’s busiest thoroughfare.

Earlier this week Suesens started working for DeVinci’s Italian Deli by dressing up as giant ravioli and waving down customers along Yosemite Avenue. It is something he said was actually quite fun and didn’t lag nearly as much as some people might expect.

Like all living mascots advertising products, Suesens has received his share of heckles, but has also received his share of hugs.

“The kids are really amused by it and they like to come up, and a lot of the older couples have really nice things to say,” he said. “I realize I’m coming to work everyday to dress up in something that someone might wear as a Halloween costume, but it’s fun and it appears to get the message out that DeVinci’s is here.”

DeVinci’s is having a name the mascot contest. People can drop off their suggestions through April 16 at the West Yosemite Avenue in the Manteca Marketplace.