Quirky Buzzard Lope contests draw thousands to 30th Mullet Festival on Goodland

Mullet Festival just one of several high profile events on jam-packed Saturday

Sydney Pope, 8, of Naples, celebrates after being named the 2014 Buzzard Lope Princess during the 30th Annual Mullet Festival at Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland on Saturday, January 25, 2014. Photo by Brian Tietz

Photo by Brian Tietz, (2014) Brian Tietz Photography, Inc. mail@briantietz.com (239) 823-8850

Sydney Pope, 8, of Naples, celebrates after being named the 2014 Buzzard Lope Princess during the 30th Annual Mullet Festival at Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland on Saturday, January 25, 2014. Photo by Brian Tietz

Volunteer Abby Garner, right, helps patrons choose their bowls before they begin sampling soup. The eighth annual Empty Bowls event brought thousands to Cambier Park, sampling soups from local restaurants and donating to help the Harry Chapin Food Bank feed the needy. Lance Shearer/Special to the Daily News

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Volunteer Abby Garner, right, helps patrons choose their bowls before they begin sampling soup. The eighth annual Empty Bowls event brought thousands to Cambier Park, sampling soups from local restaurants and donating to help the Harry Chapin Food Bank feed the needy. Lance Shearer/Special to the Daily News

Eight-year-old Sydney Pope stood on the stage, flapping her arms, spinning around, flashing a broad smile and ending her Buzzard Lope dance with a cartwheel.

That flourish prompted loud cheers from the crowd Saturday at the 30th Annual Mullet Festival at Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant in Goodland. Sydney, a Naples resident, was competing for the title of Buzzard Lope Princess, a junior prelude to the infamous Buzzard Lope Queen Contest at 4 p.m. today.

“Looks like she’s on dope. She is doin’ the Buzzard Lope,” the song repeated as Sydney and four other competitors bent their knees, flapped and spun. Sydney easily won the title, $100 and a pink girl’s bike she donated to an 8-year-old with leukemia.

“It was a very unexpected thing,” Sydney said afterward, adding that she practiced for only 2 minutes.

About 4,000 people daily flocked to the festival Friday and Saturday, according to emcee Jim Hilt, who said he and emcee Billy “O” Oliver expect 5,000 on Sunday for Buzzard Lope Queen and mullet-cleaning contests.

The festival was started by the waterfront restaurant’s namesake, Goodland resident Stan Gober, who died in June 2012 at age 86.

“We’re just doing our best to keep Stan’s tradition alive,” Hilt said. “We can never replace Stan, but we can remember him.”

The Mullet Festival was just one of several major Southwest Florida events on a jam-packed Saturday, including:

■ Chalk Art 2014, a street painting extravaganza, on Fifth Avenue South.

■ The Swamp Buggy Races, which continue from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today at Florida Sports Park, 8520 Collier Blvd., East Naples.

■ Country Jam Music & Rib Fest at the Collier County Fairgrounds.

■ The Ballpark Festival of Beers at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

■ Empty Bowls, an international effort to raise money and awareness to end hunger by creating pottery, at Cambier Park. Thousands of festivalgoers bought bowls — many crafted by local artisans — sampled soups prepared by local restaurants and food service organizations, perused silent auction items and watched artists create bowls.

Empty Bowls proceeds are donated to Harry Chapin Food Bank.

Stan’s Idle Hour Restaurant, now owned by Gober’s son, Steve, went through 1,200 pounds of mullet by Saturday and had to order another 500 pounds, said Steve Gober’s fiancée and assistant manager, Trish Oehler. “And that’s just mullet,” Oehler said, adding that the restaurant also serves tilapia, Mahi-mahi, grouper and tuna.

On Saturday, the Hot Damn Duo played as people packed picnic tables topped with blue umbrellas, ate fried fish and drank beer while watching dancers.

Among them was 2012 Buzzard Lope Queen Kerry Melzl, 42, of Chicago. Before the contest, she demonstrated the dance for the wannabe princesses, holding a stuffed buzzard, spinning barefoot and flapping as black buzzard wings on her back bobbed.

“I’ve been coming here since 1989,” Melzl said, adding that her mother urged her to compete. “She said, ‘That’s it. You’re going to be a buzzard.’ I wore a German dirndl skirt and I danced like a crazy person.”

Daily News correspondent Lance Shearer contributed to this article.

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Comments » 1

HANKSP writes:

Sunday Jan 26
Description
The Goodland Arts Alliance will host its 1st annual Arts & Crafts Fair on Mullet Festival Sunday, January 26th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Smoked mullet, buzzard loping, fine beverages and INCREDIBLE Arts & Crafts in the park! Come join the fun!

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