Fish will fly from the ‘Bama April 23-25
By Fran Thompson
Tens of thousands of folks from throughout the nation & all walks of life will soon descend upon the crystal white sands of an iconic roadhouse at the Alabama-Florida state line for the three day frenzy of food, fun and frivolity.
The event is the Flora-Bama’s April 23-35 Mullet Toss weekend – officially The Interstate Mullet Toss & Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party.
Cover charge begins at 9 a.m. Friday, and admission is $10 per day for those 21 and older and $15 for 16-20 year olds, with 15 & under admitted free. The party is open to all ages until 6 p.m., at which point the event is for those 21 and up.
The Flora-Bama beach is open to the public, however, to enter the Flora-Bama you must purchase a wristband. Entry can be accessed via the Flora-Bama beach as well as the main entrance on Perdido Key Drive. No outside coolers or alcohol can be brought onto Flora-Bama’s licensed property. The Flora-Bama will have multiple bars on the beach selling drinks and plenty available inside the bar.
Membership cards are good for entry during Mullet Toss. Cards are available online or at the door for $45 and are good for the entire year. The bar will be cash only for bar sales on Friday and Saturday, with plenty of ATM’s available.
Parking on Flora-Bama property is free but extremely limited. The use of taxis, rideshare apps and carpooling is suggeted. Any vehicles left overnight must be moved by 9 a.m. the next morning.
Originally conceived as an absurd and fun way to attract tourism dollars during the shoulder season, the 3-day event is now one of the busiest weekends of the year, contributing over $10 million to the local economy while raising funds for local charities, including the Community Drug & Alcohol Council.
The main event consists of folks throwing a mullet, a mystical fish possessing a gizzard, from Florida into Alabama.
Overall winners earn bragging rights, trophies, and gift certificates to local establishments. Trophies will be awarded 3-deep in 19 total age categories, male & female, for each day of the toss, with the top four in each division facing off each day.
A Miss Mullet bikini contest will be held under the Tent Stage at 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and offer over $2,000 in cash and prizes each day. The top three finalists both days will qualify for the Grand Miss Flora-Bama Contest and a chance to win $5,000 Labor Day weekend.
A male hot body contest will be held just prior to the bikini contest each day at 1 p.m.
Since it is at the Flora-Bama, music plays a big part in the festivities. Starting at 11 a.m. each day, more than 50 acts will share five stages, including Lea Anne Creswell, Scott Koehn, Ryan Dyar, Justin Jensome, bands led by Mario Mena, Jenna Mclelland and Brue Smelley, The Red Clay Strays, J Hawkins, Saucy Fuzz, Smokey Otis, Yeah Probably, Skyline Kings, The Perdido Brothers and Johnny Hayes and the Loveseats. (See full music schedule on page 29).
The four Flora-Bama eateries on campus – the Flora-Bama Yacht Club, the Flora-Bama Ole River Grill, The Tipsy Taco and the original Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar – will feature oysters, shrimp, oysters and Bama Burgers. The team from the Mudbug Mafia will be serving crawfish.
There are rules for flinging mullets. Contestants must select a mullet from the water bucket themselves. Wearing gloves and loading up a mullet with ballast before flinging are not allowed.
All competitors must retrieve their own fish and return it to the water bucket. Stepping out of the circle before tossing or tossing the fish out of bounds are other will also keep you out of the running for a title. Tossers have only one chance to qualify for the finals each day. Those who can manage to throw more than 100 ft. have a very good chance of at least placing.
Tossing techniques are as varied as the contestants themselves. For most, the best strategy is to fold the fish and pretend like you are trying to gun down a runner at the plate from center field.
Longtime competitor Wes Durham said at a past Toss that he likes to give his fish a pre-flight sip of beer. “Food for flight,’’ he called it.
Many Mullet Toss patrons will make condo and hotel reservations for 2022 while in town this year.
“They could come here on July 4th or Memorial Day or Labor Day. But they decide that something we created was going to be their weekend to have a party, and they come back every year,’’ said Flora-Bama co-owner Pat McClellan.
“It’s a tradition for a lot of people, and they respect that tradition and respect each other. We have less problems with crowds at the Mullet Toss than during the major holiday weekends,’’ he added.
The Toss has been written up in the Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other major newspapers around the country. The event was even featured in Sports Illustrated. For more info, visit florabama.com or facebook.
Pictured: 2020 Mullet Toss scenes.