Life is a little different on an island. Time moves slower, a different, more relaxed set of rules applies, and often, the natives boast colorful personalities. When you cross the bridge from the mainland, you'll find even the festivals boast an extra eccentricity, uniqueness, independence – and fun. Check out some of these Florida favorites.
Fling a Fish
The mullet, the only fish with a gizzard and said to possess mystical powers, is the headline attraction in Flora-Bama's Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast's Greatest Beach Party. Held the last full weekend in April on Perdido Key, a dreamy sliver of sugar-sand in Florida's northwest corner, this southern rite of passage involves throwing mullet towards the state line from a 10-foot circle. The event boasts a legendary, weekend-long party, activities, music, food, and even "celebrity tossers." http://www.florabama.com/about-us/mullet-toss
Cocoa Beach, located on a barrier island nestled against the Atlantic, is widely recognized as the East Coast Capital of Surfing. So you couldn't find a better location for the Easter Surfing Festival, held over Easter weekend at the Cocoa Beach Pier. The Festival includes surfing competitions for amateurs and professionals, a stand-up paddleboard event, a skim boarding event, and a winch tow competition where the goal is to catch the biggest air. And don't miss the East Coast Dog Surfing Championship! Spectators will have a chance to learn surfing and skim boarding, participate in celebrity signings, attend an Easter egg hunt, enjoy live music, evening entertainment, movies, parties, and experience a Sunrise Service. http://www.eastersurffest.com/esf12/
The Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival sizzles into the historic, charming enclave of Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island May 2-4, 2014. This popular event has been an annual tradition for half a century. It features food booths brimming with shrimp – delicious, firm and sweet – prepared every way imaginable, as well as a juried fine arts and crafts show, antiques, live entertainment, kids activities, contests and a pirate parade. Admission is free. http://www.shrimpfestival.com/
Toot your Own Horn
Try to belt out a tune using a fluted, pink-lined conch shell at the Annual Conch Honk, held at Key West's Oldest House (322 Duval St.) March 1, 2014. Judges evaluate your sounds – to call the squawking, honking, and bleating music is a stretch – on their quality, duration, loudness and novelty. Though you'll hear an abundance of noises not normally associated with music, prior contestants have produced melodies as sophisticated as the "Flight of the Bumblebee." The conch honk costs zilch to enter or watch. If you don't own an 'instrument' you can purchase conch shells at the event. http://oirf.org/index.php
Dig the Sand
The gnarled face of Old Man Winter, blowing out a plume of frost. An intricate Christmas house, rising in a fantasy of stairways and towers. And more, so much more. The 30-plus sculptures you'll see at the 27th annual American Sand Sculpting Championships on Fort Myers Beach, Nov. 22 -Dec. 1, 2013, will be exquisite, and amazingly, crafted out of sand. Over 1,000 tons of it. This Festival, the largest sand sculpting competition in Florida, features more than 25 Master Sand Sculptors and hundreds of amateurs, in addition to chainsaw art, Quick Sand Speed Sculpting, sand sculpting demonstrations and lessons, Flying Colors, a kids activity area with bounce houses and slides, and more than 60 vendors.
This story originally appeared on Visit Florida, www.visitflorida.com.