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What is a parrothead

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people in hawaiian shirts
The first rule of the Parrothead: a Hawaiian shirt IS dressed up!
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Parrotheads, grab your salt shaker and a lime, we're heading to Margaritaville

It was probably inevitable that I would grow up to be a Parrothead. I'm from Florida. My parents gave ma a sailboat for my 10th birthday. I can't imagine a better place than the beach. And one of my favorite places to hang out was a dive restaurant called Ernie's, with its huge bowls of conch chowder and baskets of sweet Bimini Bread.

What is a Parrothead, you ask? Oh, my dear. You really don't know? Well, it's not too late. You've come to the right place. You see, I am a near life-long parrothead.

But I forgot ... you don't know what any of that means! Let me explain. But first you'll have to gather a few things. Dig out your flip flops. Slip on a pair of shorts. Oh, and a casual beach-themed shirt is a must -- the louder and brighter the better.

Grab a shaker of salt, a couple of limes, a blender and a bottle of Tequila. Ready? Let's go!

The heart and soul of Parrothead-hood

The music of Jimmy Buffet was the start of the official Parrothead movement. His songs about boats, bars and beaches created a picture of a lifestyle few outside of Florida or the Caribbean ever imagined. 

It was a place where dress shoes meant a new pair of boat shoes, and a dress shirt was something made of cotton and decorated with pictures of palm trees, parrots and big colorful hibiscus blossoms.

In this world, boats were a must, and yards came equipped with hammocks and lawn chairs. And absolutely everyone had spent at least a little time in the Bahamas and Bimini -- preferably arriving and leaving by sailboat or seaplane.  

The term came from a comment Buffet made at an Ohio concert back in the 1980's, where he compared his loyal Hawaiian shirt and parrot-hatted fans to Deadheads. In 1989, the first official Parrot Head club was formed, and the rest, they say, is history.

Club members grabbed the title, and ran with it. Parrot head parties before Buffet concerts became legendary for their booze (belly shots were and are a favorite) and rowdiness.  But unlike other fan groups, PH gatherings were known for their good-natured fun and lighthearted welcoming attitude. If you liked the music and the message, you were in -- especially if you were toting a fresh bottle of tequila!

The Parrot Head movement

Now, over two decades later, the parties continue. 

But in one of the great ironies of popular culture, this gathering of people who enjoyed (or longed for) the tropical world immortalized in Jimmy Buffet's song have turned into a tremendous force for social good.

Nationwide, there are over 200 Parrot Head clubs, with additional international clubs in Canada and Australia. And each year, members contribute hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours and millions of dollars to worthwhile causes ranging from food banks to environmental rescue.

The group that started as a way to find a piece of the laid-back lifestyle, had become a powerful way to make the world better for all kinds of people.

Are you ready to be a Parrothead?

So now that you won't have to ask what is a parrothead anymore, are you ready to join us? No Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops?  No worries. You can get the look at Jimmy Buffet's own store in Key West and online. Crank up the blender (make mine a Virgin Margarita, please), and find your nearest club. Or start one.

Then head for the marina...the boat is ready to sail!  All aboard for Margaritaville!

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