Tailgating in Virginia Beach: why the disparity in ordinances?

Guest post by Maria L. LoPresto

Parrotheads, the common name fans who follow singer/songwriter/best selling author Jimmy Buffett are an eclectic, fun, group of folks who are all ages (children are called “parakeets” and I have seen individuals at Buffett shows in their mid 80s, dancing to famous hits such as “Fins”, “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and that famous national anthem of parrotheads everywhere – “Margaritaville.”

Parrotheads follow Jimmy Buffett, love the beach lifestyle, the ocean, and all things tropical. His shows have become famous for the elaborate costumes the fans wear (coconut bras & grass skirts are in vogue yearly), and the camaraderie in the parking lot before the show has become such a highlight that a camera crew films the elaborate tailgate feasts, decorations, and costumes. I can recall seeing at one concert a very nice tiki bar, lifeguard stand with an accompanying pool, and tailgate cuisine that included lobsters, filet mignon, and a full buffet. Mind you – this was all in a parking lot outside the venue.

Parrotheads plan for months for not only the concert but the tailgate is part of the fun. With a cross section of fans that range from doctors to construction workers to college students, you will meet a diverse group of great people who enjoy all things Buffett.

I have seen Jimmy Buffett every year since 1989, I’ve followed his literary career (he really is more of a story-teller than singer), and even wrote a paper in graduate school about how his influence helped protect manatees in Florida. Jimmy Buffett worked with former Governor Bob Graham to protect these once endangered mammals. Although a businessman, Buffett has continued to advocate for environmental policies. After the tragic oil spill in the Gulf, he played a free concert to help kick start the tourist business in the Gulf Shores.

Parrotheads do not have fan clubs, we are affiliated with Parrotheads in Paradise and are strongly encouraged to “party with a purpose.’ Millions of dollars have been raised by local parrothead clubs across the country.

Parrotheads such as myself were thrilled to hear he would return to the Virginia Beach Ampitheatre on 5/26/11. It has been over 10 years and frankly, the road trips to see him have been exhausting.

On 5/8/11 an article in The Virginia Pilot quoted Mayor Sessoms saying that he would be at the concert but  that he had to behave. While I am glad that the Mayor will be able to enjoy the show, I am disappointed that he did not request the same exception that was given to the new semi-pro football team that begins this year at the Sportsplex in Virginia Beach.

Per a senior member of the Parrothead Club of Tidewater:

I wanted to share some information with you on what we found out in our investigation of the tailgating ordinance in Virginia Beach. Hopefully that will explain our reluctance to “fight city hall” as it were. We have an “in” with a senior member of the Virginia Beach Republican Party and he interfaced with Mayor Sessoms and several council members on our behalf. He was told that when the City Council was crafting the new tailgating ordinance exception of the open container / drinking for sporting events, they approached the amphitheater management and they declined to be part of the ordinance change for business reasons. This was from both a liability stand point and not wanting to hurt their concession sales in the venue. So based on this, the city offered to include concerts in the new tailgating ordinance change and the amphitheater declined.

What I find disconcerting is that the lack of willingness to “fight city hall,” if we as citizens do not attend council meetings, make our wishes known to our elected officials, and speak out – why do we even deserve representation? The other concern is that this issue is a local issue, ordinances such as these are not Democratic nor Republican. On the local level, partisanship is irrelevant. Considering that the amphitheatre was constructed using municipal bonds, citizens have a right to question management’s decisions. Perhaps when the contract comes up for management, citizens will remind officials that this economic development project was paid for with taxpayer monies.

I understand the issue of safety; yes, there is drinking at a Buffett show. However, parrotheads often charter a bus, rent an RV, and almost always have a designated driver. Risking your life or the life of others is just not worth it. If Jiffy Lube Live is concerned about drinking and driving, WHY are there beer sales?

So, while the Parrothead Club of Tidewater does not want to exercise their civic responsibilities at this time, I am speaking out as a fan. This issue is not by any means as pertinent as the economy, jobs, bringing our troops home and so other issues facing Americans.

But sometimes, we all need to escape to a place where you can be entertained about “boat drinks,” amusing lyrics such as “if the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me” and my personal favorite, “We are the people our parents warned us about.” We don’t all have access a trip to Key West but for three hours we can enjoy the entertainment, wear our tacky Hawaiian shirt and take a break from the real world.

Maria L. LoPresto


2 thoughts on “Tailgating in Virginia Beach: why the disparity in ordinances?

  1. Update:

    People in NoVA mobilized, contacted their legislators and the WaPo ran a story on a similiar policy.

    From today’s USA Today:
    On another front, Parrotheads in the Washington, D.C.-area upset about new no-tailgating rules at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va., (where Jimmy is set to play on Aug. 27 as part of his summer Welcome to Fin Land tour), now have Buffett on their side.

    Prior to the start of this year’s concert season, the venue announced it would enforce its rule of no alcohol in the parking lot, as well as restrict tailgating. The parking lot will also not open as early as in previous years.

    Anyone who knows about Buffett and the Parrothead culture knows that tailgating is at least half of the fun. When told there wasn’t going to be partying in the parking lot, the singer said, “Who’s stupid idea was that? … I’m glad to hear that. I’ll get right on that. I believe I can take care of that. It must be some city thing, but it’s not me.”

    The venue, formerly known as Nissan Pavilion “is one of the biggest tailgating places ever,” he says. “We got time, I can really get into that. … I’m going to fire a little shot to the Live Nation people.”

    1. Too much government rule infringes upon our rights and freedom as Americans. If you do something unlawful, then you should be arrested. Outside of that, let us gather.

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