When Jimmy Buffett’s fans – called Parrotheads – get together, it’s a given that there will be a lot of food, fun, tropical music and adult beverages.
What most people don’t know is that Parrotheads have taken the art of tailgating to the next level.
When Buffett brought his Summerzcool Tour to Pizza Hut Park Saturday in Frisco, his fans from website www.BuffettNews.com partied with a purpose, raising money for local charities while having a great time. People came from as far as Idaho, California, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to “party with a purpose.”
This year, the group decided to apply for 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
“It got so big I couldn’t manage it at a personal level,” said Bill Ansel, the group’s ringleader. “The party wasn’t going to grow without getting organized under a non-profit umbrella.”
Ansel, who works as a manager at a communications company in the Dallas metroplex, has been spearheading the group’s parties since Buffett played Texas Stadium in 2004. Since 2005, the group has been raising money for charity.
“This year, we raised $17,000,” Ansel noted. “That’s awesome, when you consider the economy.”
Ansel is quick to credit his wife and the group’s many volunteers.
“First and foremost, I couldn’t do this without the support of my wife [Debbie],” Ansel said. “She is the one who manages everything at home while I’m getting ready for the party.”
Ansel also has a great group of people working with him.
For this year’s Friso Feeding Frenzy, Ansel’s army managed the parking lot, sold T-shirts and coozies, grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and brats, held a silent auction, made name tags, shuttled people back and forth to their hotel and the venue, ran a dunk tank and managed to get two cover bands to play during the festivities.
“I couldn’t do this without them,” Ansel said. “They are phenomenal.”
Even though the number of people attending the party was down, the group raised more money.
“We had 500 less people and we raised more money,” Ansel said. “We’ve had really good exposure. Radio Margaritaville mentioned us several times in the weeks before the show. Jim Mayer, bass player for the Coral Reefers, came out to the party, accompanied by Radio Margaritaville disc jockey Kirstin [Winquist].”
Donations from the Frisco Feeding Frenzy III go to the following organizations:
National Breast Cancer Foundation – $5,000
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – $5,000
Scottish Rite Hospital for Children – $1,700
Why Me Foundation for Childrens’ Cancer – $500
Dallas SCORES Foundation – $500
Guilford County Animal Shelter – $500
FC Dallas Foundation – $500
NJ Ag Society / Farmers Against Hunger – $500
As the sun faded and the tailgating wound down, everyone headed to the venue to see what kind of escapism Buffett was cooking up this year.
This year’s set list had a little something for everyone.
Of course, Buffett does “Margaritaville” and “Come Monday,” the only two mainstream hits he’s had in his 40-plus year career. He puts “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” his crossover hit with Alan Jackson, into the mix.
He also adds some island spice with “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” “One Particular Harbor,” and “Brown-Eyed Girl.”
But, this year, he tossed in some tunes that resonated with his die-hard fan base.
Hearing “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don’t Love Jesus” live was a real treat for this old parrothead. Buffett played the ukulele during this one and it was a great way to open the second half of the show.
Then, he and his long-time musical director Mac McAnally did “I Heard I was in Town” and “The Last Mango in Paris” as a tribute to Captain Tony Tarracino, the long-time Key West resident who died in November.
Tarracino, the owner of Captain Tony’s bar, befriended Buffett when he came to town in the early 1970s and the two remained close. Buffett even managed Tarracino’s unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Key West.
Along with the songs, Buffett brought three jumbo screens that ran slide shows of his early days in Key West, and I was reminded of why I love Buffett. His smile is contagious, while joy and laughter practically spill from the photos.
For the encore, Buffett came out wearing a huge cowboy hat given to him by hall of fame cowboy Larry Mahan. Although the fit wasn’t exactly perfect, Buffett worked it during “Livingston Saturday Night,” a song that rarely gets stage time. The crowd went wild.
I’ve been following Buffett since the early 1970s when he was just a one-man band, trying to eke out a living. Even though he’s now master of all he surveys, including a radio station, restaurants and a record company, he’s not lost a step or one drop of enthusiasm for his summer job. That love of life – and his mega-watt smile – are really what sets him apart from other artists.
At 62, he loves what he does. And Saturday night, 27,000 Parrotheads loved him right back.
Jimmy usually plays Frisco in April. Make plans now to join us for the 2010 Frisco Feeding Frenzy. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have without a beach.
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