Grey skies, intermittent drizzle, ambient temperature in the mid-50s and northeast winds to 25 mph, on Sunday didn’t faze fun-loving crowds attending the final day of the 24th Annual Goodland Stan’s and Sons Mullet Festival.
The day’s highlight, of course, was the Buzzard Lope Queen Contest at 4 p.m. to choose the 24th Queen. There were seven female contestants who pre-registered, said “Billy O” (Oliver) who emceed the contest held on the bandstand/stage backed by Jeff Hilt and the Stampede Band, who played the traditional Buzzard Lope Dance music while each of the five contestants strutted, shimmied and flapped both arms urged on by the crowds’ chants of “Do the Buzzard Lope, you gotta dance the Buzzard Lope” on and on.
Right before the judging two contestants chickened out and were crossed off, leaving only Tonya, Missy, Beverly, Linda and Kim, said “Billy O,” holding out the list of scribbled first names.
“Kim, that’s Kim McGregor has been entering for years, and the Queen’s title keeps eluding her.”
Did I mention that the feathered and plumed contestant, who elicited the loudest yells, whistles and claps from the crowd, to win the 24th Buzzard Lope Queen title was Linda Young? Well now you know, and the runner-up (similarly chosen by the assemblage) was Beverly, said “Billy O” who pointed out she added Verhusen, Illinois after her name but he thought that was the town not her last name.
That having been said, your reporter was able to interview Linda (aka) Queen Buzzard Lope and her husband Charlie Young because their friend, Craig Goodrich, who owns and manages Marco Island Naples Florida Rentals, said he’d bring the couple to Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant dining room where we were thawing out with a cup of coffee after covering the hour-long contest (Incidentally, unfortified against the cold, unlike the majority of festival-goers).
“Oh! My God, I was so excited,” said Linda Young, whose husband Charlie ventured, “She worked very hard putting the outfit together in Minnesota and even created the buzzard beak thing for her nose.”
Linda told us that the couple lives in Minnesota, where they own several restaurants in the Twin Cities. “We came down here in November, visiting Craig and Karolee Goodrich, and they brought us down to Goodland where we met Stan Gober (the owner of Stan’s Idle Hour),” Linda said, adding that Stan invited everyone to come down for the Mullet Festival and urged Linda to make a costume and compete for Buzzard Lope Queen.
Now, let us backtrack to Friday, when the 24th Annual Goodland Stan’s and Sons Mullet Festival Kick-off party was held on a balmy, warm and humid Florida evening, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Stan’s Chickee Bar. The musical entertainment and dance music was performed by the Hot Damn Duo, Norm and Debbie, who also were the featured live music act on Saturday, when the festival really got fired up at noon (and so did the hot, sunny and humid weather).
Festival-goers feasted on famous Fried Mullet Dinners, including mullet fillets, breaded and fried by master fry cook Douglas Doxsee. Counter girls and servers Lizzie Buster and Candyce Lewis took orders and filled plates with crispy fried mullet and hush puppies, along with cole slaw and Russ Gober’s equally Famous Shore Lunch Beans — “When I used to captain and cook the Shore Lunch Charters,” said Russ, who is Stan’s eldest son and supervises the mullet dinner stand. “This Mullet Festival is just a giant shore lunch — now I just do half-day charters.”
Something new this year, was the kettle corn stand run by an outside operator, said Russ. “Strictly commercial, but the people seem to enjoy it,” he added.
Also a crowd-pleaser was the Fish Cleaning Contest, emceed and judged by “Billy O” that started at 3 p.m. Contestants had to gut, fillet and skin each mullet and the one who cleaned the most was the winner. This year’s winner was Ron Bennett, who came down from a little town in the Jacksonville area, explained Russ, adding that the contestants were judged on the quality of the finished fillet.
Quality was also served up at the hot dog stand manned by Firefighters Local 2887 members including Marco Island Firefighter Deputy Chief Chris Byrne.
“We’ve been doing this (fundraising) for years,” he said, “Helping Goodland kids with educational assistance and scholarships.”
Firefighter Engineer Jerry Adams, who runs the pump and equipment on the truck agreed, “Me, it’s been at least 18 years (helping at the stand) that’s how it began, but now funds are distributed to local charities.” Byrne also explained, “When things happen in the community, we’re able to help out.”
Firefighter Cook and Engineer Steve Hagmann and his wife Shirley, along with Firefighter Paramedic Mainer Gattas, were handling the hot dog cooking and serving detail at that moment. “Last year, we raised a couple thousand (dollars) and we hope to raise that again this year,” Byrne said. “We’re also here to support Stan — he’s always supported us.”
Last but not least was the Princess Buzzard Lope contest Saturday at 4 p.m. that was won by Devin Oetman, aged seven, who lives in Naples with her mom Kelly Cobb, who works at Joe’s Crab Shack, explained grandmother Mitzi Cobb. “We had company from Virginia three weeks ago and rented a boat and came down to Goodland and stopped in at Stan’s. “He said come on down and enter Devin in the Princess Contest. So here we are, and she won — isn’t it wonderful?”