Parrot Heads, local leaders mellow out
By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist
Published April 23, 2004
Channelside Drive was lined with people in flowered shirts, grass skirts and Kino sandals Thursday.
One woman wore a straw hat adorned with a giant margarita and a parrot. Another had a pirate hat from Fernandina Beach's Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.
Parking lots, some charging $60 a car, were roped off with multicolored banners. Singers crooned all the way from Channelside to the "Your Name Here For Lease" bar formerly known as The Outpost.
If you knew Jimmy Buffett was in concert at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday night, it wasn't a surprising scene - until you realized some of these folks had shown up 12 hours before the concert. By 3 p.m., an estimated 3,000 Parrot Heads, from as far away as England, were milling about.
Largo's Frank Novoa and Jacob Smith, two 23-year-old fans, thought nothing of arriving at 8 a.m. Why? "Why not?" said Novoa.
What had they been doing since 8 a.m.?
"Drinking," said Smith.
Technically speaking, Bill Cory and Brad Zalban arrived even earlier. They flew into Tampa on Saturday for the concert. The California natives are separated by some 2,300 miles now that Bill lives in Detroit, but they get together whenever they can for Buffett concerts.
Some Parrot Heads don't even like the music or go to the concerts. For the second consecutive year, Pete and Loni Vroom of Pinellas Park came to the forum parking lot to drink, hang out with friends and be with phamily. Yes, phamily. In the world of Parrot Heads, "ph" phrequently phills in for "f."
All the Buffett fans wanted me to know that being a Parrot Head was about more than Coronas, Captain Morgan and conch fritters. The Tampa Bay Parrot Heads In Paradise Club is the largest in the nation with 1,200 members, and is as much about causes as it is about concerts.
Its efforts include supporting Lowry Park Zoo and the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, as well as sending care packages to military personnel in Iraq.
* * *
Of course, Tampa isn't always as mellow as Margaritaville.
After reading the political salvo County Commissioner Tom Scott fired at Mayor Pam Iorio, I started to invite the two of them to Channelside for some Parrot Head revelry.
"We do not have a good relationship with the city of Tampa and the mayor," Scott said Wednesday. "We have a mayor who does not respect this board."
The latest dispute arose when Iorio appointed County Commissioner Kathy Castor to the MacDill Land Use Study Group. Although Castor represents that area, the county board argued the appointment was a violation of protocol.
To me, the statement reflected a negative climate and was fodder for any city competing with this area to attract new businesses. I don't know if I could have done much more than say, "Can't we all get along?" but I was ready to mediate.
Scott and Iorio beat me to the punch. The two talked Thursday and agreed to regularly meet and hash out any differences. Scott stressed the importance of a cordial relationship, and Iorio said the city and county have worked harmoniously in other areas.
Still, the meeting is the ideal step and really overdue given that Iorio has been mayor for a year and Scott has been commission chair even longer.
* * *
While Buffett fans came from the Keys for the concert, Florida Aquarium biologists were headed to the Keys to investigate the sighting of batfish.
The batfish is native to the Pacific Ocean, and officials think a pet owner may have released the invasive species into gulf waters after it outgrew a home aquarium. This is bad. The batfish may be disrupting the entire ecosystem.
The aquarium hopes adding the batfish to its invasive species exhibit can help people understand the dangers. After all, the state annually spends $100-million controlling invasive species.
And you know Jimmy Buffett wouldn't be happy about endangering the environment.
That's all I'm saying.
- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com
[Last modified April 23, 2004, 01:20:38]
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Ernest Hooper: Parrot Heads, local leaders mellow out
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