Panama City Parrot Head Club
The Panama City Parrot Head Club was part of the Emerald Coast (Destin/Ft. Walton) Parrot Head club back in 2004. One of our former members noticed how many Panama City people were driving all the way to Destin for meetings, and so the Panama City Parrot Head Club was formed. Like most clubs, it started with 25 members or so, then got up to 60 members. In 2005, the group decided to do a one-day party with several Trop Rock Musicians. Brent Burns played, Jack Mosley played, and the 60-70 people there had such a good time they decided to do it again. Now this part of the story is murky and there are differing opinions. Brent Burns has a song called “Parrot Head Rendezvous”. According to Brent, our club leadership at the time asked if we could call the event “Parrot Head Rendezvous”, after his song, and of course he said sure. Some of our locals though, claim it was the other way around, that we called our event “Rendezvous” and THEN Brent wrote the song. Either way, “Parrot Head Rendezvous” was born, and that first year about $3000 was raised. And for Rendezvous, the rest is history, it’s now one of the largest Parrot Head events in the country, with the beautiful Gulf of Mexico as the backdrop of the stage. (locals will remind you, quickly—that you can’t call it “the ocean”. It is “the Gulf” lol).
Rendezvous is our club’s “Super Bowl”. We start planning the next year for it, even while the current year’s event is happening. This year—it was especially tough.
Hurricane Michael blew through Panama City during the day on Oct 10, 2018. The night before, it had been a category 2 storm, which is dangerous, but very doable. The Gulf waters last year were overly hot, hotter than ever. This helped cause the terrible Red Tide that the entire west coast of Florida had to deal with in 2018. With those warm waters—even into October, overnight the storm grew in size and intensity, and slammed into our town as a Category 5 hurricane.
It’s hard to describe the damage inflicted. There are reports that up to 500,000 trees were blown down, which of course meant they blew into telephone and electric wires. Many of our club members had extensive damage to their homes, many lost their jobs because their buildings took so much damage. Our major hospital, Bay Medical, had 150 mph rated hurricane windows—that blew out. Most of the hospice, retirements homes, clinics, cancer treatment centers, almost all the ancillary medical facilities that every town has, were severely damaged and closed. More than 1000 patients were evacuated to either Pensacola or Tallahassee – THAT AFTERNOON. Many stories of hospital workers working 30-36 hours helping get patients out exist.
I had no power for 21 days, and had to move in with our Vice President, Geno Redmon, as my job requires internet access. We talked early on about what to do about Rendezvous, even though in the back of our minds we pretty much knew what we were going to do. And as soon as we found out that the beach was mostly spared the strongest hurricane winds, there was no question. Rendezvous was going on, and we were going big this year. All in. If we didn’t break even, we would at least have a helluva time trying. We spent more on Sound and Music this year than ever—by a lot
Parrot Head Nation also stepped up bigly. Clubs from all over the country sent us checks. No stipulations on how we spend it. Our first meeting after the storm, I think almost a month later, we called it our “Emergency Relief Meeting”—and with the help of a major donor, we raised $9,000! At just a regular meeting!! The owner of the Pub started things off with a $1000 check, and from there, it just rolled in. We set up a site where you could send as little as $25. More than 100 people donated $25, and many more donated more than that.
Another group of guys with chainsaws, one who owned a backhoe, descended on about 15 different households—including mine—to cut trees down, clear driveways, pulled stumps up, and basically did major back breaking work for many of us. These guys were the true Angels in Tropical Shirts. They brought tears to many, as the first couple of months were still very shaky around here as far as gasoline, ATMs, drugstores, all the things we take for granted on a daily basis. (5 Winn Dixie stores are STILL closed)
The Lone Palm Foundation acted very timely, as many of our members went to the website and received checks very quickly from Lone Palm. They became our new best friend.
We had a very muted Christmas in the area. Yes there were some Christmas lights up, and you tried to get in the spirit, but the mood was somber, as there was so much to do. Contractors and adjusters flocked to the area—as well as con artists, grifters, fake insurance adjusters, etc.
But after the new year we started in earnest on Rendezvous and pushed the hell out of it. Our lineup might have been the best ever. We found 2 major sponsors, Latitude Margaritaville, and Coral Reefer, and that gave us nice donations, and so by early March it was clear, we were definitely going to make money, though we still didn’t know how much.
Many of our normal mom and pop stores that had donated items for Auction or Raffle—many of those stores were gone, and we had to work extra hard to make sure we had good Auction and Raffle items. Geno Redmon, who gathered most all of our sponsorships, gift bag items, etc, worked relentlessly up and down the beach gathering commitments for money and/or in kind merchandise donations. Judy Jensen and Vickie Bennett worked tirelessly and made our gift baskets and auction items look better than they ever had. I can’t say enough about how hard those folks worked. We ended up clearing about $10,000 more in Silent Auction and Raffle this year than last year. Our registration numbers were surprisingly close to last years, within 10 people. But we had great phun and games, managed by Boat Drink Steve Camp. He always has something up his sleeve. We sold our tent sites, which were gone in no time.
Girl’s Inc, who has been our charity for Rendezvous over the last few years, worked the front desk registration, handled all the Silent Auction and Raffle baskets, took the money, and basically kept the front end running smoother than ever. There were only minor bumps in the road for the whole event, nothing major. Sharky’s restaurant worked with us on band comp rooms, and they made a $2800 donation too.
In typical Florida fashion, the first night of Rendezvous we saw a storm front moving in, we huddled in the bar, and with the clear plastic flaps down, watched Drop Dead Dangerous play with lightning and thunder in the background. It was a neat visual. But the next 3 days could not have been any prettier. 3 glorious spring days on the beach, with Tropicool, Jim Asbell, Donny Brewer, Jimmy and the Parrots, the Aquaholics, BeatleBeat and more providing great entertainment. Tech-Tronics from Ft. Myers provided the best sound we’d ever had. The sound system and stage itself helped make the show.
And we still had checks coming in from other clubs. As well, we stumbled on to an opportunity to park cars for a Jeep and Truck show in town. We ended clearing over $10,000 for just a few days of work (yes we hope we get that again this year!).
All in all last year, between Rendezvous and Hurricane Relief, our club saw income over $121,000. Maybe there are a few clubs who deal in those sums of money, but it was unheard of for us.
After we had all our bills paid, we still had a boatload of Rendezvous money, AND still had Hurricane Relief money. Since Rendezvous comes near the end of our fiscal year, we backed into the number we were donating. We left our next club a nice “float” of money, a lot more than normal, and basically gave everything else away. We gave $4,750 to Lone Palm, $4,750 to the Panama City Rescue Mission (on the front lines of a huge increase in homeless families), and $45,500 to Girl’s Inc. In total, in one day, we gave away $55,000. It was one of the best days of my life. And capped off what had truly been a helluva year, one that I hope I never have to relive again.
Girl’s Inc is our go-to charity. They provide an after school and summer program for disadvantaged girl’s in the area. Money given to them goes to the ground quickly, which is just the type of charity we like to work with. Their main building is still dealing with issues from the storm and will probably have to be completely rebuilt. We are also building a better partnership with the Panama City Rescue Mission. The homeless population in Bay County more than doubled since the storm, and this group is on the front lines. $10 donated to them is used the next day to buy food. With homelessness, there is also more drug and alcohol related issues, more crime issues. And the Rescue Mission deals with it all, every day.
What Makes Us Great:
So if you ask what makes our club special or unique, I guess I can say that THIS YEAR – we have proven that we have perseverance, certainly flexibility, and like most all clubs, many of us are best friends. We brought in a LOT of new members through the year, so we have a practically brand-new BOD, which all of you know—is good. Our challenge, like every club’s challenge, is to keep new people coming in, getting them excited and involved, and keep momentum going. Living here in paradise doesn’t hurt. This year has shown me more than ever – it’s great to be a Parrot Head.
Learn More About Us:
Want to learn more about (or join!) Panama City Parrot Head Club: Go to our Facebook page or our website: http://panamacityphc.org . And oh yeah—Rendezvous registration is opening up soon!!