HERNANDO BEACH — They like nibblin’ on sponge cake and the smell of shrimp beginnin' to boil. They “party with a purpose,” and they eschew the letter “F,” because it’s more phun. And oh yes, they like cheeseburgers, as long as they’re served in paradise.
They are members of the Nature Coast Parrott Heads, the local chapter of the network of Jimmy Buffett-inspired groups that boast some 15,000 members worldwide. The Nature Coast group has about 100 and holds monthly “phlockings” the second Monday of the month at the Drunken Mullet on Shoal Line Boulevard in Hernando Beach, which appropriately sits on the water and has a little beach outback where people can sit in lawn chairs and wriggle their toes in the white sand.
Until January, the club, which has been around a few years, only had a couple dozen members. Meetings were moved to the Mullet and things started to take off. The membership has reached triple digits and gatherings at the local bar and restaurant draw members from other clubs from Citrus and Hillsborough counties.
Being a Parrott Head is a “state of mind thing,” said Santo Merillo, club president. He joined the group about 8 years ago for the same reasons others do: he loves the environment, the water, the sun and the brand of “trop-rock” made famous by the notorious pirate/musician Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band.
“It’s about the water and the whole tropical lifestyle,” said Merillo. “It’s a social thing; we love music and getting together for a good time.”
But it’s not all just fun, sun and cold bottles of beer with twists of lime. Being a Parrott Head is about being a guardian of the oceans and the environment, as well as supporting local causes, said Marilyn Hayes, club membership and media relations director, whose Parrott Head nickname is “Media Maddie.” Make no mistake, she said, Parrott Heads party hardy, but they also work to help local charities, raising about $5,000 a year for local groups like the Boys and Girls Club. An exception was made last year when the group raised $1,500 to support some out-of-towners—panhandle victims of Hurricane Michael.
“We call what we do, partying with a purpose,” said Hayes, who added that the group has members from all over the Nature Coast area, a “phlock” that hails mostly from Hernando and Pasco counties. The group has many events aside from monthly gatherings, like the upcoming visit to Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa to see the Red Elvises. The big event of the year will be the annual Pit Stop weekend that begins the evening of Oct. 25 at the Rum River tiki bar and grill in Port Richey on the Cotee River. The event moves to Gill Dawgs in Port Richey the following day and concludes with brunch at the Seaside Inn in Port Richey on Oct. 27. Pit stops are held by Parrott Head chapters around the nation every year as stop-offs for members along the way to Key West for the annual Meeting of the Minds and trop-rock festival, this year held Oct. 31-Nov. 2. Information on the Nature Coast Parrott Heads and upcoming events can be found at the group’s website at www.naturecoastphc.com.
Membership is easy, and you “don’t have to be a fan” of Buffett, said Hayes—just fill out a form and pay the $20 annual dues and kick off your shoes. That’s exactly what new member Kathy did.
“I ran into Marilyn at the Bayport Inn,” said Kathy, who moved to the area recently and had not met a lot of friends. “She said, ‘I’ll get you all the friends you want,’ just give me $20.
“It’s a great group; we meet at the Drunken Mullet, there’s live music and we have a great time, so what more good can I say?”
Members since 2015, Kenny and Lisa Burke said the Parrott Heads are an ideal social activity for anyone who embraces the “Buffett-esque lifestyle.”
“Sun, sand, water, socializing, helping people and enjoying music,” said Lisa. “That’s what we’re about.”