A Buffett-Style Beach Bash

Winning logo design by UNCW student Caitlin Dwelly.

Winning logo design by UNCW student Caitlin Dwelly.

Though many of us won’t make it to the Caribbean this August, we can still enjoy a bit of “island escapism” with the latest tropic craze to hit southeastern NC: the Phlock to the Beach. The first annual Jimmy Buffett-style beach bash was the brain child of the Southport-Oak Island Area Chamber of Commerce and one of its enterprising members.

“I remember late last summer talking to my husband, Rich, about how the lifestyle—for those of us who live on Oak Island—captures the flavor of Jimmy Buffett and his songs,” Barb Olsen-Gwin of Brunswick Air and a chamber member, tells. “We had been to one Jimmy Buffett concert when we lived in Charlotte and found the ‘party’ on the parking lot before the concert to be one big, crazy, happy, silly celebration.”

The fun was enough to convince Olsen-Gwin to seek out a local Parrothead chapter, the organization of Buffett fans. Last October, she met Rich Walsh, the vice president of the Pleasure Island Parrothead Chapter at the area’s Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival.

“I stopped to visit Karen Sphar at the Chamber of Commerce office later that week,” Olsen-Gwin continues. “During that visit, I asked Karen, ‘Has there ever been an event around here based on Jimmy Buffett?’ She said, ‘No, but that sounds like fun!’ And so the idea was officially launched.”

Just like that, the chamber set out to organize our area’s first Phlock to the Beach for August 23rd through 25th. (Anytime a group of Parrothead fans get together, it’s called a “phlock”!) Featuring a “Cheeseburger in Paradise” contest, two bar crawls, lots of island music, and much more, the weekend-long event will be an ode to everything the artist stands for.

“Jimmy Buffett’s music captures the essence of living and working in a coastal environment,” Olsen-Gwin describes. “It is a dream for many people to someday live at the beach. Those of us who are fortunate enough to do so appreciate that fact and understand the longing. Going to the beach, sitting in the sand, is about the only time we give ourselves ‘permission’ to do nothing.  In fact, that is the point. We are supposed to relax, read a book, walk in the surf, build a sand castle, and basically recharge our inner battery. So Jimmy’s music is all about reaching inside ourselves and re-finding the child—not a care in the world.”

Though the events won’t begin until Friday, August 23rd, one portion of the Phlock to the Beach has been underway since May 27th. The “Cheeseburger in Paradise” contest pits restaurants that are members of the chamber against each other in a brawl of burgers. Four categories—best overall, best use of or most unusual condiment, best topping or garnish, and largest stacked burger—are being voted on by community fans through Thursday, August 22nd. Voting takes place online at www.southport-oakisland.com.

Voters are encouraged to try the burgers at each competing restaurant, including Beana’s Kitchen, Duffer’s Pub and Grille, Famous Subs and Pizza, Fish House Restaurant, Fishy Fishy Café, Flying Fish Café, Hardee’s, Island Way Restaurant, Oak Island Deli and Pub, Shagger Jacks, Taylor’s Cuisine, The Trolly Stop, and Turtle Island Restaurant. “Cheeseburgers can be very competitive but everyone who is voting seems to be taking this in the spirit of fun we intended,” the chamber’s executive vice president, Karen Sphar, assures. She adds that unique condiments the chamber has already seen include salsa, guacamole, and pimiento cheese.

The winners of the contest will be announced during the Phlock to the Beach concert and festival on Saturday, August 24th from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport (4019 Long Beach Rd. SE).

The libations will flow on Friday, August 23rd as the two “Dress Like a Parrothead” pub-and-grub crawls will take off at 4 p.m., one in Southport and one in Oak Island, sponsored by Budweiser’s Designate a Driver campaign, Landshark, and Southport Magazine. A trolley will carry guests ages 21 and older around a slew of stops for a mere $15 per person. Tickets must be purchased in advance from the Chamber Welcome Center (4433 Long Beach Rd. SE) or through the chamber’s mobile app, titled “Southport Oak Island,” which is available for free download.

The Southport trolley will board at Sláinte Irish Pub (1513 N. Howe St. #10) and will continue to Dead End Saloon Fish Factory and Grille, Bella Cucina, Silver Coast Winery Tasting Room, Fishy Fishy Café, and Uncorked by the Sea.

The Oak Island trolley will board behind the Oak Island Town Hall (4601 E. Oak Island Dr.) and will make stops at Fish House Restaurant, Flying Fish Café, Oak Island Deli and Pub, Pirates Deck, Shagger Jacks, and Turtle Island Restaurant.

Each stop of the crawl will have a theme based on a Jimmy Buffett tune, and guests are encouraged to dress for the island lifestyle. Buffett songs will play on the trolleys to add to the festive mood. All guests will be required to sign a liability waiver and release, and a valid photo ID will be required at each stop. Drinks are not included in the ticket cost.

On Saturday, August 24th, the Phlock festival will reel in lots of tropic fun. At Oak Island Pier (705 Ocean Dr., Oak Island), a volleyball tournament will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Four-person and six-person teams will be allowed for the single-elimination tourney. The cost is $25 per person, which includes an event T-shirt and a raffle ticket for a volleyball.

Likewise, at Ocean Crest Pier (1409 E. Beach Dr., Oak Island), a bocce ball tournament will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is single-elimination with two-person teams. The cost is $20 per person, which includes an event T-shirt and raffle ticket for a bocce ball set. The tournament is sponsored by Brunswick Air.

At the Cape Fear Regional Jetport, the gates of which will open at 3 p.m., concerts, games and food will be offered from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. for a Buffett-style fair. Jammin’ 99.9 FM will do a live remote broadcast where, until 5:30 p.m., attendees can register to win a Landshark Woodie.

From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the “trop-rock” party band Key Lime Pie will dish out R&B, soul, beach, blues, reggae, classic and Southern rock, and, of course, Jimmy Buffett tracks.

Latitude will play the Phlock to the Beach concert on Saturday,  August 24th. Courtesy photo

Latitude will play the Phlock to the Beach concert on Saturday, August 24th. Courtesy photo

The husband-and-wife duo Latitude will play from 7:15 p.m. to 10 p.m. Featuring Tom Becker on guitar and vocals and Michelle Becker on keyboard and vocals, Latitude has performed with Grammy-winning artists, “American Idol” finalists, and Motown legends. Tom, raised in Chicago, was a member of The New Christy Minstrels, which helped launch the careers of John Denver and Kenny Rogers. Michelle has played with The Drifters, Loretta Lynn, and Louise Mandrell, to name a few artists. The couple met as successful songwriters in Nashville and have since released five albums as Latitude.

Delicious local refreshments will be on hand throughout the day, as Turtle Island Restaurant will feature beer, wine, Jerk chicken wings, and fish sandwiches. Silver Coast Winery will serve their NC wine, while Sunset Slush will offer frozen treats. The Civil Air Patrol will have water and soft drinks, while Papa John’s Pizza will dole out pizza and Pepsi products.

For the kids, there will be plenty of free games to partake in. Children will be grouped by ages (3 and under, 4 to 8 years, 9 to 12 years, and 13 and up) to play with hula hoops, compete in a flamingo race, and more.

Gracie and Tic Toc the clowns also will paint faces, ranging from $2 to $10 per design. “They will add cheeseburgers, parrots, margaritas and more to their selection in keeping with the theme,” Sphar adds. Hey—who says grown-ups can’t don a painted face when margaritas are involved!

Also for adults and children alike, free contests will take place throughout the day. The Parrothead Club to Club Challenge will include area chapters facing off in “Jeopardy”-style trivia, represented in three-person teams.  The contest will be single-elimination, and the winning team will earn bragging rights as the best.

The Little Miss Parakeet and Little Master Parakeet (ages 10 and under), as well as the Mr. Longitude and Ms. Latitude contests are open to anyone who wishes to participate, and will be based upon crowd applause. The winners will each get a sash declaring their title. Finally, a Jimmy Buffett look-alike contest and a decorated-vehicle contest also will be held on Saturday.

Admission to the festival at the jetport is free for children 5 and under, $2 in advance or $5 day of for ages 6 to 12, $5 in advance or $10 day of for ages 13 to 17, and $10 in advance or $15 at the door for ages 18 and up.

The first annual Phlock to the Beach will come to a close with a final event on Sunday, August 25th. From 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport, a pancake breakfast will be held to raise funds for the local EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Chapter #939.

The Buffett-style bash is sure to bring beach-loving locals out to play, as well as tourists from neighboring states, Sphar suggests. After all, if you play Jimmy Buffett, they will “phlock”!

For more info, call (910) 457-6964.

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Southport Area's Culture & Events Magazine