Outflapping her opposition with the madcap gusto reserved for the Buzzard Lope dance, Beverly Verhusen of Naples claimed the colorful title of Buzzard Lope Queen 2010 at the annual Mullet Festival.
It was held over the weekend at Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant on Goodland for the 26th year running.
Sunday, under grey skies that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits (mostly fortified, if the truth be told), revelers ate 600 pounds of oysters and about 2,000 pounds of fried fish.
Significantly, mullet wasn't on the menu, due to the extensive fish kills in the area after the January cold snap that lasted a week.
By any standards, the rousing festival is 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 for two days of inspired lunacy in the tiny waterfront town that calls itself a “drinking village with a fishing problem.”
Social class distinction takes a hike as revelers imbibe and dance to a hot local country rock band, eat oysters and fried mullet until it comes out of their gills, and then settle in for the Buzzard Lope Queen contest.
Indiana visitor Tom Ludwig, sporting a Rastafarian cap and (false) locks, said the festival coincides with an annual visit each year.
“It’s a really neat festival,” he said, particularly the age mix. It’s pretty unique.”
He said a female Ludwig family member might indeed become next year’s Buzzard Lope Queen.
“We’re doing a demographic study on the crowd, learning how to influence the judges, and coming back next year to win,” he said with tongue firmly in cheek.
Sioux Falls, S.D., visitor Ron Koiker sported a hat that looked like a reshaped 12-pack Coors Light beer carton.
“It gets better every year,” he said. “I like to just watch (people).”
After her win, new Buzzard Lope Queen Verhusen said she’d treasure the honor for life.
“I’m really excited. I love this place,” she said.
In the early days, the festival was aimed more at mullet fishermen, with a cleaning contest (that still takes place), and then some dancing afterwards.
Octogenarian host Stan Gober brought in the buzzard angle about a decade ago.
“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,” he said.
Gober said he takes pride in the festival being named as one of the top 10 Florida festivals to be sure not to miss.