Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ever-body's Doin' The Buzzard Lope!

2012 Mullet Festival
Stan's Idle Hour Restaurant and Bar
Goodland and the Southern end of Marco Island, Florida

The annual Mullet Festival is always held the weekend before the Super Bowl, which is the last weekend in January.  We attended several of the annual "free-for-alls" with our friends, Chris and Tannya, when we all lived in Naples -- way back in the 1990's.  It is truly an outrageous event.

First, there's Stan himself. Stan Gober is from Alabama so that fact alone creates some kind of weird feeling of "redneck" kinship. Stan is a crusty ole codger who fishes, drinks, sings, writes corny songs about life in Goodland, Florida and generally enjoys life. I've heard he's quite a philanthropist too. He's probably in his late 80's by now.
Welcome to beautiful downtown Goodland.

Stan's Idle Hour is a series of wood 'shack style' buildings that look old and run-down because they are. Locals call them "chickee huts" but they're just old shacks. There's a gravel parking lot and a boat dock too. 

It's been many years since our last Mullet Festival so we were happy to be in the vicinity in time to attend. Chris and Tannya will be there and we invited some more RV friends to join us -- but in the end, just the hard-core of us returned to be honored by the drunken revelry that goes with the crowning of the Mullet Festival Queen.

Things were still pretty calm when we arrived.

Tannya waving on the left. Our friend and former co-worker, Terri on the right.
The headless arm of Chris is flailing around in the center of the picture.
Chris welcomes us with this pointing gesture.
The sign is a line of one of Stan's corny songs titled "What Kind of Fish is That" -- a favorite of ours.

Tannya -- always smiling.

It's early afternoon so the swelling crowd is still pretty docile.
The stream of cars coming into the festival is never ending. The crowd grows steadily...
Chris and Wayne catch up...
Not Buzzard Lope contestants. 
Tannya and Terri

The Mullet Festival goes on all weekend with fish cleaning contests, a Buzzard Princess contest for kids and music all weekend. But the grand finale is Sunday afternoon and it's all over well before nightfall.  Live music, dancing and joke sessions are held at the tiny, trashy stage area that's much too small for the popular event these days. Wood and plastic picnic tables are strewn about the dust and gravel parking lot -- some have umbrellas' other's do not.  Buckets hold bottles of beer with a few ice cubes thrown on top. Food is cooked and served furiously --- mostly not too good.  Our hot dogs this year seemed to have been wrapped in plastic.

I saw booths of kettle corn, fried and smoked mullet, fresh vegetables, burgers and fries being sold. Additionally, Stan's has a full kitchen that's serving the majority of the crowd via table service. Horrors -- imagine the wait.
Yes, even the produce stand does a brisk business today. 
I saw dozens of people carrying fruit and vegetables in clear plastic bags.

The crowd is unbelievably diverse: well-dressed young couples, near naked of all ages, parents with babies, old hippies, bikers in leather, fishermen, punks, local Goodlanders and some really old people who look like they're on a group outing from the nursing home. Meanwhile, the very well-to-do sit drinking wine from fine crystal, on yachts tied to the dock.  Here's a sampling of what I managed to photograph:
A rather tame head dress. Note the fish among the feathers. 
Always lots of fish and feathers here.

I zoomed in on this one to give the full effect of what I was seeing.
This is a female. Her male counterpart was just as hideous.

Someone said this is the Mayor of Goodland, but I just don't know for sure.
His name tag identifies him as the Buzzard Lope Queen Inspector.
Basically, his attire is a red thong with a tuxedo coat.... and. yes, feathers.

A view from behind the stage shows a bit of the crowded boat dock (not nice enough to be called a marina).

Another view of the potbellied Mayor.
This shot includes his fashionable footwear.
Someone offered to take my picture with the Mayor.
No thank you.
Another fashion diva of the festival. 
Notice no one seems to pay much attention?  There's plenty more just like her.

As a point of reference, our small group is perched upstairs to the right. Wayne's in the blue and white stripe shirt.

Cars continue to pour into the festival area... Beer continues to flow....Sun continues to shine...
Drinkers continue to drink......and the band plays on.

I snapped this one in middle afternoon.  I think everybody's here now... right?
Not an official part of the Mullet Festival, there are some interesting vehicles to be seen along with the serious people watching.  There are dozens, no hundreds, of motorcycles and plenty of ritzy cars.


This guy had to be in his 70's. Part of the "Old Guys Rule" club, I think.

But wait. Let's not lose focus. We're here to see the competitors for the envious title of Buzzard Lope Queen 2012 and the competition is fierce. Anybody can participate. No dance routine is required and neither is talent.  It's mid-afternoon when the band begins playing the favorite Stan Gober classic, "Ever-body's doin' the buzzard lope" ...  The winner is determined by the volume of applause, hoots, whistles and other noises produced by 3,000 drunk people -- most of whom cannot even see the stage.  We hoot and holler anyway.  We choose one of the ladies... er... women (they may not be ladies, after all) as our favorite.  I squeezed my way through the wall of people on the wooden steps and tried to get near the stage for pictures.  I could not. I held my camera as high as I could to get these pictures and they aren't too good. 
It's not easy to make out who is the contestant so I'll help.  This is her back side -- she has on a hat. Black feathers (yes more feathers) make wings on her shoulders and there is a pink and white feather boa around her neck.
 Her elbows are in the air... She's imitating a buzzard.  

Contestants root for one another.  Hoots and hollers for everybody. 
All this dancing and yelling calls for more beer!

I don't know who was named 2012 Buzzard Lope Queen.  Not many people do know.  It really doesn't matter.  Good fun was had by all.  .... until...

If you think this ole guy looks mad... You're right. Somehow he got himself into an argument with someone in our group. He was "invading our space" I think.  His wife tried to mediate without much luck. 
Wayne and I did not participate in the fracas, I'm happy to say.
Fortunately, the argument did not come to blows or fisticuffs but threats were made and tempers flared between the old guy and one or two others among us. Finally, the invading person, helped along by his wife, moved on; action that was anti-climactic since the festival was ending anyway. 

... and so until we meet again for the 29th Mullet Festival in Beautiful Downtown Goodland....

These Mosquitoes Have Got To Go!


  1. my dear captured the best and the worst of a fun, fun day in goodland! thank you for sharing it all! i have forwarded stone the picture of his friend :) ha! so good to be with you and the wayner, calendar marked for next year....take care and much love from your buzzard friends.

  2. An interesting insight into "the Mullett Festival" in Goodland that I've heard about for many years. It is almost exactly what I have imagined all this time. I work for one of the folks in your small group, Jack's Papa. Thanks for the opportunity to see more of the event - at a safe distance. I've seen many pictures from the event in years past but never with captions. May you be safe in your travels.