Parrot Heads Hit the Road Again (The
East Hampton Independent - 10/29/2003 Issue)
By Carey London (Copyright © East Hampton Independent News Co. All rights reserved)
They are a colorful group with tropical shirts on their backs, margaritas in their hands, and parrots on, well, their heads. They are none other than Jimmy Buffet’s most loyal fans, the Parrot Heads, and this past weekend they were out on the road again -- okay, the side of the road again, in their final litter pick-up for the year. Regalia not included. The Metro Parrot Head Club, which has 325 members from the tri-state area, formed in 1992. They are now one of 170 clubs worldwide, including Canada and Australia. So named for their tropical taste in hats, Parrot Heads are among the most loyal of music fans -- right up there with the Dead Heads. But they are even better known for being a humanitarian group. The not-for-profit organization unites like-minded and laid back folk, while contributing to local communities and the environment. Buffet himself is a staunch conservationist, having played a significant role in Florida’s efforts to save the manatees. Having supported a number of causes, including Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, and March of Dimes, the Metro PHC has also adopted beaches, a lighthouse in New Jersey, and a road, Rt. 114 between Sag Harbor and East Hampton. Under the Adopt-a-Road program, the group picks up debris in the spring, summer, and fall. This year marks 13th anniversary of the road clean up. It is a 2.5-mile stretch from Stephen Hands Path to just past Daniel Hole’s Road and is part of the route Buffet takes to get to and from his house and the airport, where he keeps his own single-engine amphibian plane.
Disorganized “We were the first club in the country to adopt a road,” said Joe Lombardi, former club president and current area coordinator and editor of their monthly newsletter. In fact, their work has been exemplary. According to Lombardi, when the NY State Department Of Transportation holds orientation meetings for new groups who want to adopt roads, they use the Metro PHC’s as an example of good work and dedication. They even rewarded the colorful group. “A couple of years ago [the Dept. of Transportation] said, ‘Well you guys have been doing this for so long, you do a great job. We can’t do anything for you except we can give you a larger sign.’ So if you look at our sign on Rt.114, it is larger than most of the other adopt-a-highway signs,” said Lombardi. Eight club members started the Adopt-a-Road project. Ten years and a much larger group later, six of them returned and have done so year after year. The troops are gathered via the newsletter and email. But this is not as structured as it sounds, said Lombardi. Understand they are Parrot Heads. On principal alone, they cannot be too organized. Nonetheless, on Saturday, About two-dozen people showed up and broke into small groups. They dotted both sides of the road, with bright orange bags and long pointy sticks. The next project on the Metro’s list takes place in November. They will be one of several groups to decorate Christmas trees, which will be auctioned off. The proceeds will go to United Cerebral Palsy. For a nominal fee, anyone can be an official Parrot Head: $24 per year. And with that, members are invited to happy hour socials and will receive a monthly newsletter. Should they decide to participate in community service projects, they could also be eligible to win the Parrot Head of the Year award -- for those who “go above and beyond,” according to Tom Dalton, Marketplace manager for the group. Although Buffet has only happened upon this particular group of Parrot Heads a handful of times in the past 11 years, he does pay homage to the group as a whole in his concerts, recognizing their community service. And that is just fine with his loyal troops. “Just the fact that he knows that we’re out there is good enough,” said Lombardi.