35th Annual Mullet Festival: Singin’ – and dancin’ – in the rain
The 35th Mullet Festival was one for the books. Despite Goodland and the rest of Marco Island being lashed by a cold, windy rainstorm all weekend, Stan’s Idle Hour went ahead with their signature annual blowout.
“The show must go on. My dad taught me that,” said Steve Gober, son of restaurant and festival founder Stan Gober. “Ya gotta keep doing it – it’s a tradition. And look at how many people came out.
“This is better than yesterday,” Steve said on Sunday afternoon. “It never stopped raining Saturday.”
The stage outside Stan’s was thronged with revelers Sunday afternoon when the traditional climax, the Buzzard Lope Queen contest, was held. Those who couldn’t squeeze under the covered area used raincoats and umbrellas, but the rain almost stopped during the contest.
Half a dozen ladies in a wild variety of costumes, heavy on the feathers and sequins, gyrated to the sounds of Stan Gober’s original composition, “The Buzzard Lope.”
“Flap your wings up and down, take a few steps back, go round and round. Looks like you’re on dope, you is doin’ the Buzzard Lope. She is doin’ the Buzzard Lope,” sang emcee Jeff Hilt over and over, as the contestants showed off their costumes and their steps.
Eventually, it came down to a nail-biter between hometown favorite Kat Ebaugh of Marco Island, and Mackenzie Rubenzer from Wisconsin. Ebaugh had at least one supporter who had made up a sign promoting her candidacy, but Rubenzer brought her own rooting section. After multiple rounds of roaring crowds cheering for their favorite – many seeming to cheer for both – Rubenzer, 26, received the tiara, and the chance to have her name added to the “Wall of Shame.”
All the contestants received “a free drink – watered down of course,” said Hilt, and the finalists walked away with cash as well. The Marco Island firefighters sold brats from their stand and crowded under canopies to escape the downpour.
Saturday, the Buzzard Lope Princess competition was won by Marco Islander Harper Harrison, 3, but the traditional mullet cleaning contest was canceled in a sop to the rain. The Goodland Arts Alliance Arts & Crafts Festival, scheduled to coincide with Sunday’s Mullet Festival, was called off.
Somehow, the bad weather made for a good time, with those who showed up feeling a bond, as though they lived through something together. And luckily, the road out of Goodland didn’t flood.