Going to see Jimmy Buffett at Jones Beach is not just a concert but rather a life experience. Before the Sag Harbor resident performs his annual show Tuesday night, thousands of Parrotheads, as his dedicated fans are affectionately known, will have spent more than 10 hours celebrating in the parking lot.
“This is an event of a lifetime. It’s really something to behold,” says Reiner Kleuker, 48, of Freeport. “People go out of their way creatively. There’s nothing like it.”
Attendees will encounter an entire tropical carefree culture where fans go as far as putting up dunk tanks, wrestling rings filled with Jell-O and inflatable pools surrounded by transplanted sand, portable palm trees and a swim-up bar.
But newbies shouldn’t be intimidated: All are welcome. Here’s a checklist of what first-timers need to know before entering Margaritaville.
Those who want to park in the main lot (Field 5) must line up on Ocean Parkway as the sun rises.
“The last two years my husband and I arrived at about 4:30 a.m. to get on line to enter the parking lot that opens at 6 a.m.,” says Jennifer Davis, 42, of Bellport. “When we get in, there is a mad dash to find our ideal space and set up our tailgate.”
By 7:30 a.m., the first parking lot is full and people are setting up their own spaces, which are fully decorated with Caribbean-themed flags, flowers and signs.
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW
“It’s always positive, there’s no negativity,” says Kleuker. “It’s almost like a spiritual thing.”
Those less hard-core can arrive later and park in Field 4, then walk over to enjoy parrot paradise.
Some Parrotheads are so dedicated to the parking lot ritual that they don’t even go to the concert. Joe “Poppi” Lienau, 69, of Middle Island has been in the scene for 20 years but has seen only one show.
“If you’ve seen one show, you’ve seen them all,” says Lienau. “Some people who can’t afford the tickets will sit on the shore in beach chairs with a picnic and just listen to the show.”
Special attire from head to toe is essential to getting in parrot mode.
“Everyone dresses loud and proud,” says Kleuker. “Light clothing is important.”
Panama hats and Land Shark baseball caps are key as well as Hawaiian shirts, tank tops, cargo shorts, sunglasses, bathing suits and, of course, flip-flops.
Die-hards can be seen wearing grass skirts, coconut bras, Mardi Gras beads and multiple leis.
TAILGATE WITH STYLE
When it comes to food and drinks, the parking lot is a smorgasbord of seaside snacks from fresh fruit bowls to barbecued shrimp to jambalaya to frozen concoctions.
“People even make Hawaiian hamburgers,” says Betty Corwin, 57, of Northport, “which is a burger with grilled pineapple ring, avocado and mango chutney.”
KNOW THE MOVES
Going into the show, it’s important to know when to participate in the action. During Buffett’s song “Fins,” fans tend to dive in head first.
“Everyone puts up their hands above their head evoking a fin,” says Kleuker. “When Buffett says ‘fins to the left,’ they turn to the left, and when he says ‘fins to the right,’ they turn to the right.”
During his signature song, “Margaritaville,” when Buffett sings the line “looking for my lost shaker of salt,” the crowd shouts, “SALT! SALT! SALT!”
Parrotheads are known to be an amicable and inviting bunch. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers.
“Everyone is a friend that you haven’t met yet,” says Corwin. “The parking lot is filled with happy-go-lucky, loving, caring, open people of all sizes, shapes, colors, races and backgrounds.”
Davis concurs: “Parrotheads are very accepting to newcomers. There is no club to join to be a Parrothead, it is a state of mind. Some of our best friends are people we met who have tailgated alongside us in the parking lot.”
JIMMY BUFFETT AND THE CORAL REEFER BAND
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Tuesday, Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, Wantagh
INFO $56-$156; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com