Sunday, April 10, 2011

Flamingo Bucket List (Tampa Edition): Free Festivals, Live Music

For some reason, over the last month or so, we've started attending carnivals and festivals on the weekends.  I can't explain this.  So long as it's free to get in and there will be live music, we show up.  Oh wait, I guess that explains it.  I don't know about the rest of our little crowd, but I have no interest whatsoever in paying money to get into a Blues Festival, for example, to not get to sit close enough to hear so-so bands. 

Two or three weekends ago, we went to Oldsmar Days two nights in a row and heard great music both nights.  And this weekend, we drove a little further down to St. Pete to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church's carnival.  We normally wouldn't have even known about the Sacred Heart Carnival, but Flamingo Joe works with a guy who helps run the music stages and last year, this same co-worker suggested one of the Christian bands that plays the festival to play at Coffeehouse for us.  The band he suggested, the Brian Pflieger Band, did in fact play at Coffeehouse for us and they were great.  So this year, when Joe's coworker said the festival was coming up, we checked online and sure enough, the Brian Pflieger Band was playing again.  So we drove down to St. Pete to Sacred Heart. 

Those Catholics sure know how to party.  Assuming I'm writing to an audience made up of 80% Southern Baptists, you might be surprised to learn that Catholics serve alcohol at their carnivals.  And they arrange a wide variety of musical acts to perform.  Here is Jelvis:

I don't want to offend anyone, but Floridian women of a certain age appeared to just eat Jelvis up.

Here's Brian Pflieger (they are a Christian band, but started their set with a couple of "covers"):

If you ever get a chance to see the Brian Pflieger Band, take it.  The video above definitely doesn't do them justice but hopefully gives you an idea of how great they are.  When they sang at Coffeehouse, they did a 15 minute hymn medley that brought the house down -- strange, but true.

While great live music (and lemonade-flavored cotton candy and deep-fried oreos) is a good reason to visit a local Florida carnival, another great reason to go is to get in touch with the real Florida, and by that I mean, of course, spending some time with some genuine Florida crackers.  It is sad, but if you try hard enough (by avoiding bait shops, liquor stores, and those spots on the causeways where you can back your pick-up right up to the water), you can live a life in Florida that is completely devoid of contact with genuine Florida crackers.  But at these local festivals and carnivals, you can't walk three feet in any direction without tripping over their flip-flops.  If you've never seen a genuine Florida Cracker, you should look for a man or woman with a tan that is soooo deep it has obviously been attained by being constantly outdoors on fishing piers and rusty bicycles.  Florida Crackers are typically chainsmokers and at festivals, heavy beer drinkers, so it is usually impossible to guess their exact age.  At the Sacred Heart Carnival, two Florida Cracker guys with no teeth and ZZ Top beards were running the Charlie's Seafood booth and they were just plain scary, but Joe said their Gator Tail was great. 

At Oldsmar Days, we saw a great example of a different class of Floridian altogether, the Garishly-Dressed Woman, wearing these:

Lauren said, "These boots are made for . . . something."   For some reason, Florida really brings out the sequins in some women.   

So as far as the Flamingo Bucket List (FBL) goes, this is an easy one to check off your list.  Just skim the paper or search for local events online and find a local carnival offering live music -- to truly meet the criteria as being worthy of the FBL, the event must be free except for food and rides and must offer a sampling of local vendors.  A word of caution regarding Catholic carnivals -- they like to use a food and drink ticket system whereby you buy tickets and pay the vendors with the tickets instead of cash.  Last night, Flamingo Joe thought we needed $40 worth of these tickets -- which is why we were still cruising the food vendors at 11:00 p.m. buying fried oreos and hot tamales.  We still left the carnival with $10 in tickets and no one in our after-church lunch group would let me leave carnival tickets as a tip today at Applebees.  I'm pretty sure Dave Ramsey would also disapprove -- I am going to email him and suggest he add an entire chapter to Total Money Makeover to address the pitfalls of Carnival Currency.

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