Great Escape

Stan Culture Is Alive and Well on Long Island

A photographer infiltrates a Jimmy Buffett Parrothead tailgate party

A Pomeranian dresses up as a shark, and other scenes from the Jimmy Buffet concert; Long Island, New York, August 2, 2018. All photos by Amy Lombard. Photo editing by Michelle Le.

IIt’s about 2:00 on a Thursday afternoon. By normal standards, all the busybodies and pencil pushers on Long Island are at their nine-to-five jobs. On Jones Beach, it’s a different scenario. The Parrotheads—diehard fans of the musician Jimmy Buffett and his “island escapism” lifestyle—have descended upon Jones Beach. They’ve flocked to the parking lots. And they’re here to party.

The booze-fueled scene is not unlike spring break. School buses have been rigged to accommodate bars and provide makeshift rooftops. Cover bands play in the beds of pickup trucks. Moms and daughters are zipping around on beer coolers that have been transformed into scooters. There are even parrots that sing Jimmy Buffett songs.

“Everyone on Long Island knows Jimmy Buffett. It’s a culture,” Alyssa Sinacori explains.

Left: Alyssa Sinacori, Taylor Carson, and Taylor Rossi party in the bed of a pickup truck. Right: A group of friends drink and hang out in an inflatable pool.

My midafternoon arrival is late by Parrothead standards. Parking lots have been full for hours, and the Land Shark and Bud Light intake has been high. “I got here at three in the morning, and there was already a line with over 50 cars to get in. They opened the gate at six,” explains Ray Ponitillo, who, after eight tailgates, isn’t even attending the actual concert. Which, for the record, is not the slightest bit uncommon among attendees. The tailgate has become an experience on its own separate from Buffett’s show. When asked his favorite memory over the years at Jimmy Buffett concerts and tailgates, Ponitillo laughs, “If you remember it, you probably weren’t here.”

Parrotheads put out fake skeletons.
R.J. Ponitillo, Marie Cardoza, and Ray Ponitillo ride through the tailgate.
Left: A former trolley has been refashioned as a clubhouse. Center: Merch includes T-shirts with the logo of Buffett’s beer company and grass flip-flops. Right: Parrotheads dance to a cover band rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”
Mike Harvey wears a coconut bikini for the tailgate.
Hale Storm poses in a casket that a lawyer brought to promote his business.
Left: A watermelon cut into a shark. Right: Gail Case.
Landshark buoys for sale.
Anna Beam and Guinness, a 3-year-old Panama Amazon parrot.
Men skip the long lines for the Porta-Potties.
Parrotheads zip around on coolers-turned-motorized scooters.
Aimee and Lori Polizzotti hold the custom shot holder they created for the tailgate.

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