Interstate Mullet Toss

in Pensacola, FL, USA

Interstate Mullet Toss

There's an art to throwing a mullet, a useless, bottom-feeding, salt-water fish. And since 1984, locals and tourists alike have worked tirelessly to perfect this art. A year's worth of training, 12-ounce curl after 12-ounce curl, boils down to a single weekend of heated competition. Yes, I'm talking about the Interstate Mullet Toss held every April, where over a 1,000 people get sucked into the mullet mania and shell out $18 to toss a 1½-pound fish. The entry money also gets you a T-shirt and a souvenir picture of you to send home. Dear Ma, thanks for the college education!

Barbara Burns is a bartender at the FloraBama Package & Lounge, one of the last great American roadhouses, which sits equally as much on Florida soil as on Alabama's. They host this annual fish fest. "We throw 300 pounds of mullet from the Florida side into the Alabama side," Burns says. "Most people take the fish and roll it up like a baseball, tight as they can, crunch its little bones and everything else." Right away you'll recognize a mullet launched by an artist; it will slowly come unfurled and cut through the air, head first, and land about 150 feet away. Flings by regular folk often leave the mullet mangled, airborne in many different parts.

"We recycle," Burns boasts. "After you throw you have to retrieve your fish. And if it's not too screwed up, you wash it off and throw it back in the bucket." For the early-retired mullet, the FloraBama often invites some pelicans from the Alabama Wildlife Association to help clean up the mess.

How many people show up every year? "Let's just say we've got many many thousands," Burns says. "I never give that amount because the IRS would love to hear that." If you're interested in becoming one of the herd, there are lots of other events to look forward to. There's the Ms. Mullet Bikini Contest, a Wet T-shirt Contest, a Hiney (butt) Contest, Volleyball, Skeet Shooting, a Keg Toss, three bandstands and 17 bar stations. Burns demands, "Nobody goes without a cold beer or drink in their hand."

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