Mullet-tossers join valley’s championship ranks |

Mullet-tossers join valley’s championship ranks

Cliff Thompson
Special to the DailyTeam Vail, the local contingent to the 15th Annual Interstate Mullet Toss, from left to right: Kathy Scanlon; Bridget Weller; Diane Schmidt, who took first place; Gabby Sirotkin; Terry Lame, first place in the masters division; Julie Jones; Jenifer Adkins, second place; Kayleen Malone, third place; Liz Tietbohl; and Beverly Cobb.

An all-woman contingent from Eagle County has swept the 15th Annual Interstate Mullet Toss, held on the sand of the “Redneck Riviera” at the state line separating Florida and Alabama.

The piscatorial event has no connection to the tonsorial creation popular with the hockey set – winners of this fund-raiser toss a dead fish for distance. It’s considered an “interstate” contest because the tossed fish fly across the state line. There were more than 800 contestants, with proceeds destined for the Alabama Sheriff’s Boy’s Ranch.

The heresy of having Yankees dominate a mullet toss in the heart of the Southland was not lost on Florida newspaper columnist Bill Campbell of the Northwest Florida Daily, who opined in a recent column that the event is the “cultural highlight of the year.” He is still formulating a proper response to the Northern inquisition.

Most years, native son and former Oakland Raiders quarterback Kenny Stabler tosses out the first mullet. This year, however, he apparently had a prior commitment and was not able to attend.

The Eagle County women, meanwhile, competed in the category for women aged 20 to 40, with the following results:

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– Edwards resident Diane Schmidt was the champion mullet tosser in the 21 – 40 age class. Her winning toss was 101 feet.

– Jennifer Atkins of Vail was second with an 87-foot toss.

– Kayleen Malone of Edwards as third with a 63-foot toss.

– Vail’s Terry Lame, competing in the 51 – 60 age category, took first place with a 40.3-foot toss.

– Competitor Julie Anne Hughes of Edwards finished out of the running.

“I didn’t even know what a mullet was before this contest,” she said. “We just had some powerful women with us.”

“Those girls sure have some strong arms,” added event organizer Barbara Barnes of the local Flora-Bama Lounge, which sponsors the event. She suspects the Colorado contingent had some special training regimen, she said, refusing to speculate.

Barnes did say, however, that most competitors train with a vigorous regimen that includes plenty of 12-ounce curls. That’s nearly the perfect training weight because the mullet used for the toss are 1 to 1.5 pounds in weight. Winning contestants figure in windage and trajectory, as well as the sliminess of each mullet.

Not surprisingly, there are conflicting styles in winning tossers:

– Some competitors toss mullets head-first using a javelin-like technique that utilizes the streamlined profile of the fish to cut windage.

– Others use the “tail hold” and opt for maximum velocity, like a hammer thrower.

– Another style calls for crumpling the mullet into a ball and then tossing it like a softball.

The Flora-Bama Lounge, 20 miles west of Pensacola, was named by Playboy Magazine as the “Best US Beach Bar.”

As might be expected the event has some special rules:

– Contestants may not dip the mullets onto the sand. That might add extra weight and add distance to the toss.

– Contestants must retrieve their own fish and rinse them off in a bucket provided for that purpose. Good mullet can last up to 15 tosses, but the typical mullet will last just for a half-dozen Barnes said. But they don’t go to waste, and some of them never stop flying.

When the contest is over the fish are fed to the pelicans at a local animal hospital in nearby Gulf Breeze.

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