The Turkey Buzzards are back circling in the skies over Goodland and that means it’s time for the Mullet Festival held annually at Stan’s and Sons Idle Hour Seafood Restaurant the weekend before Super Bowl.
Now into its 28th year, the Jan. 27 to 29 Mullet Festival and Buzzard Lope Queen contest, hosted by Idle Hour owner Stan Gober, evolved from a local mullet net fishing competition hooked to a Goodland community event that Gober created in the 1980s to recognize the efforts of Goodland’s commercial net fishermen and award the competition’s Mullet King for the biggest catch.
The successful event was deep-sixed after commercial net-fishing was banned in Florida. The suddenly eventless Gober salvaged the defunct event with ingenuity born of desperation and came up with an original buzzard lope queen concept instead of king that was inspired by his original Buzzard Lope song, explained Gober.
“Flap your wings up and down take a few steps back go ’round and ’round...” (after watching the buzzard’s ungainly antics attacking discarded mullet parts on his dock and flocking around road kill) and turned buzzards and mullet into a major event expected to draw up to eight thousand people from around the country to Goodland this year, said Gober.
Incidentally, Gober stressed that free parking will be available all weekend in his lot across the way or Sunday’s festival attendees can park in Shops of Marco at Barfield Drive and San Marco Road and opt to take his complimentary shuttle ride departing on the hour Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. to and from Stan’s and the shopping center.
That said, the 28th Mullet Festival kick-off party 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, commences at Stan’s Chickee Bar with a Fried Mullet & Buzzard Lope Dance and music by Jeff Hilt Stampede providing entertainment for dining on smoked or fried mullet and other delicacies prepared by Chef Tony that are listed on the regular menu and/or dancing under the stars on the deck.
Saturday, Jan. 28, the event shifts in high gear at noon when Hot Damn Duo takes over center stage to provide entertainment for festival attendees as well as young contestants, 6 to 16, hoping to be crowned winner of Buzzard Lope Princess contest that starts at 4 p.m. with registration all day. The lucky young lady will be awarded $50 and a brand new bicycle courtesy of Marco Island Ace Hardware. For information or registration for all events call Stan’s at (239) 394-3041
Earlier on Saturday, starting at 3 p.m., the men will compete for bragging rights and $50 in the Mullet Cleaning Competition conducted by Billy O on the dock in back of the stage with entertainment provided by a flock of pelicans cavorting in the water below while competing for mullet discards.
Mullet Festival goers may enjoy their mullet dinners and smoked mullet appetizers all day served from the open kitchen conveniently located within shouting distance of the adjacent full-service mini bar. Speaking of bars, the Marco Island Fire Department will have its traditional hot dog and soft drink booth manned by MIFD volunteers raising funds for community charity projects on both days.
Sunday, Jan. 29, festival frenzy fires up at noon with Buzzard King Stan Gober holding court at his customary table below the sign naming past Buzzard Lope Queens mounted on the wall.
The Buzzard Band and John Singletary occupies center stage providing music for the dancing crowd which in turn will be providing entertainment for foodies seated at tables enjoying a cold one with their meal.
The outside kitchen will be providing fried mullet and fixings and smoked mullet dinners all day at market price and Marker 8 restaurant chef/owner Jimmy Ketchum will be providing his famous hog roast feast.
Souvenir fans can net a prize catch of Mullet Festival T-shirts, hats and memorabilia at the adjacent Island Woman gift and clothing shop as well as Stan’s CD’s and biography “American Story” that includes a CD of Stan singing the Buzzard Lope song.
Last but not least, 4 p.m. Sunday Buzzard King Gober attired in full Buzzard regalia will enter stage right, followed by perennial emcee Billy O with a bevy of past queens and dowager Queen Mary. The crowd will let out a roar as the flock of Queen Buzzard Lope wannabe’s strut their stuff on center stage to elicit the loudest approval from the audience to win the Costume and Dance Contest. The same tableau is played out but louder during the Queen Buzzard Lope elimination as Billy O presents each queen contestant singly in a final bid for audience approval as the 28th annual Goodland Stan’s and Sons Mullet Festival roars to its deafening conclusion and the 2012 Buzzard Lope Queen is crowned by 2011 Buzzard Queen Alane Summers