1035 N. Collier Blvd. #313, Marco
MARCO ISLAND — The Crazy Flamingo on Marco Island held a party on Saturday. Celebrating 22 years in business, the festivities spilled out into the parking lot of the eatery at the Marco Town Center mall, under several tents set up outside and under a blazing summer sun, with occasional respite from cloud cover. Hundreds turned out for a good time geared to the locals.
With a live band, food and drink specials including $1 draft beer and $2 burgers and BBQ pork sandwiches, and a dunk tank that drew young volunteers on a hot day, the major draw was still the chicken wing eating contest, in which brave contestants competed to be the first to down 15 hot wings.
Or extra-hot. While the first “heat” in the contest featured the Crazy Flamingo’s regular hot wings, which still packed some zing, the second running pitted eaters against the “bald eagle” wings, also known as “suicide” at some restaurants, loaded with fiery peppers and hot sauce.
Most of the competitors were young men, willing to put their digestive tracts on the line for the chance to win a t-shirt and a gift certificate. One brave soul, Michael Snyder, 19, went all in, signing up for both the hot and bald eagle wing events.
“That definitely was way too hot,” he said after competing in both. “I mighta overdid it a little.” But he has entered the contest for four years running, he said, and would do it again.
Top honors in the hot wings segment went to Max Tyler, another 19-year-old. Gary Krist won the bald eagle wing contest, power-eating under the watchful eye of Crazy Flamingo co-manager Dan Dawber. All of the contestants went at it with gusto, liberally smearing hands, faces, shirts, mustaches and beards with sauce as they raced to finish. But he was able to savor the flavor, said Krist.
“Believe me, I tasted every damn one of them,” he said afterwards. “That’s what I get for supplying them with the habaneros.” The hot peppers were just one of the fresh produce items on sale at the anniversary party, from a stand run by Krist and his family. Starting in October, he said, they will be selling local fruits and vegetables at the Island Garden Center on San Marco Rd. Alex Krist, 11, personally made the tasty homemade salsa, he said, with a little help from his dad.
There was plenty of activity in addition to the wing eating on Saturday. Christina Giordano served multiple tours in the dunk tank, her body painted with “dunk me” and “dare ya.” Some children, like 8-year-old Sophia Saavedra, jumped into the tank to cool off without waiting for someone to score a hit with the ball. There was face painting, a hula hoop contest, and a raffle in which Sandy Wheeler won $127.
Triple Shot, a four-man rock band, pumped out the tunes, playing favorites including “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Six Days on the Road,” “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” and of course a plentiful helping of Jimmy Buffett tunes. “Tiki Tim” Oakes and crew kept the wings, burgers, and hot dogs coming.
“We’ve got 500 hot dogs, 300 hamburgers and 300 pulled pork sandwiches, just for outside,” said Oakes, “and we’ll probably run out by 7. I don’t know how many wings we’re going through.”
Dawber and co-manager Rose “K” Kriberscheck showed off the truck owned by original Crazy Flamingo owner Tony Rainone, who died three years ago, now newly dolled up with pink paint and graphics.
“Tony always believed in giving back to the community. That’s why we do this,” said Rose.
“During the season, we’re so busy we don’t have a minute,” added Dawber. “Ninety percent of the people here today are locals. We don’t make any money doing this.”
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to For the Love of Cats, the local no-kill cat rescue organization, he said.