By any standards, it’s a potpourri of cultural contrasts — leather-clad bikers, visitors in shorts, loose shirts and baseball caps, and locals in their customary tattered jeans and logoed T-shirts.
The great leveler is that everybody gets together at Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant on Goodland one week before the Super Bowl for two days of inspired lunacy at the annual Mullet Festival. Social class distinction takes a hike as revelers imbibe and dance to a hot local country rock band, eat fried mullet until it comes out of their gills, and then settle in the for the two main highlights of the event, the crowning of the Buzzard Lope Princess and Buzzard Lope Queen.
Regarded as one of the top 10 Florida festivals to be sure not to miss, according to founder Stan Gober, this year’s festival runs Jan. 29 through 31.
Friday night sees a traditional opening party, while the Saturday activities include stomping to a three-piece band headed by Jeff Hilt, a rapid-fire fish (mullet, of course) cleaning contest, and the crowning of the Buzzard Princess.
Sunday kicks it up with the band Hot-Damn in action, and at 4 p.m. the judging and crowning of the Buzzard Lope Queen.
Looking back on the festival’s origins, Gober intersperses his memories with fond chuckles.
It began when a Miami man bought a small place next to the restaurant and used the location to head out to fish for mullet during the cooler months. He suggested that Gober initiate a small mullet fishing contest with some prizes for the biggest catch.
Gober agreed, and the next step in evolution was bringing in a band to pep up the festivities.
“Then I thought of something else,” Gober said with that legendary chuckle. “The good Lord sent me the song about a buzzard, and the next thing there were gals dancing and we had a (Buzzard Lope) Queen.”
Down the years, Gober has assumed the role of “Buzzard King:” as well as master of ceremonies, and modestly suggests that it has been “pretty successful.”
Saturday and Sunday activities run noon to 7 p.m.
The restaurant has hired a trolley to ferry people from Walgreen’s opposite the Shops of Marco from noon until 6 p.m. on Sunday, with return trips running every half hour.
Parking for the day is allowed along the right of way on Goodland Drive for about a half mile leading up to the restaurant, and some paid parking is available closer to the venue.