When I called to make reservations at Oak Beach County Park, the recorded message threw me for a loop. It said, "We have no sites available for the weekends of Cheeseburger."
Thankfully, the friendly voice went on to say that a few sites were available during the week. And, for us, that was definitely good news.
Though we still had no idea what "Cheeseburger" was, we were grateful that we could grab this cozy spot for a couple of nights. It's just a short walk from the lake and less than a mile from our friends' place here in Port Austin. And, the price is right. Full hookups and a clear shot at the satellite for a mere $25 a night. Deal!
The park, like most of the town, was decked out for this thing they call "Cheeseburger". We kept an open mind and checked in with our friends Pat and Ed.
They were definitely in the Cheeseburger spirit at their house. The tiki bar was in place and images of pink flamingos could be found all around. We didn't know much about Cheeseburger, but we were quickly figuring out that it's some kind of party. By the time Wednesday rolled around it was time to get ready for the Parade of Tropical Fools, the midweek highlight of Cheeseburger. Yesterday, Paul and Ed went to town bright and early to place our chairs along the route. By 9AM the locals estimated there were some 15,000 chairs lining the parade route. And, the parade wouldn't start until 6PM! When Pat and Ed's niece Alyssa donned her costume for the parade, we knew we were in for something fun!
Turns out that "Cheeseburger" is short for Cheeseburger in Caseville, a 10-day festival of everything Caribbean and, oh yeah, cheeseburgers. Caseville is a quiet little village that some 900 people call home. But, every Summer this little place on the shore of Saginaw Bay becomes the spot where Jimmy Buffet meets Mardi Gras, with a Cheeseburger, of course.
From its humble beginnings in 1999, when some 5,000 people came to town to eat cheeseburgers and act like parrotheads, Cheeseburger has grown. Official attendance estimates for this year's parade were between 60,000 and 70,000 parrotheads. The parade started like most parades, with a military color guard that received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Beyond that, it was like nothing we've ever seen.
This being an election year, there were plenty of politicians, of course. This candidate showed up with his "Nerd Mobile". (It looked kind of like a Bounder to us!)
Actually, there were several RVs in this year's Parade of Tropical Fools. This vintage rolling home was part of the Redneck Parrot Family float. (Yes, there were floats!)
This little trailer served as a bead closet for this float. When we said this is Jimmy Buffet meets Mardi Gras, we weren't kidding. There were lots, and we mean, lots of beads.
Of course, lots of floats featured cheeseburgers. And, oh yeah, parrots. (No. This didn't make any sense. But, it was a lot of fun!)
Even the Flintstones made an appearance. This reminded us of our friends "Fred" and "Wilma". (You know who you are!)
Now would be a good time to remind you that this event is called the Parade of Tropical Fools. There were plenty to be found! We just couldn't believe that 50,000-plus people would gather on a lovely Summer night in Michigan's thumb to celebrate cheeseburgers. All of this excitement on a Wednesday! We were impressed at how civil everyone was. Yes, the alcohol flowed and a good time was had by all. But, everyone seemed to remember that Cheeseburger is a family event. (And, some of them had to go to work this morning!)
After the parade we moved into the amphitheater to enjoy the music of The Boat Drunks, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band out of Champaign, IL. They were lots of fun! And, of course, we all treated ourselves to a tasty cheeseburger and a brew (or two) while we were initiated into the "parrothood" up here in Key North.
Yes, we're a little bit sad we had to leave this morning. These folks in the thumb sure know how to have a good time. We'll definitely be back!