A Parrothead’s Parking Lot Paradise

On a hot summer day in June, I, along with what felt like the rest of the residents of Frisco, drove to Toyota Stadium for the highly-anticipated Jimmy Buffett concert tailgate. Having never been to one of these notorious events before, I really had no idea what to expect. The very fact that there was a tailgate for the local concert was an unfamiliar concept to me, but that did not subdue my curiosity about all the off-the-wall things I had heard rumors about. I should have known I was getting into more than I bargained for, especially with all the “warning signs” that rolled past me during the week preceding the concert. For example, I was sent a traffic and parking advisory for the Saturday in question, informed of road closures and a friend was sure to mention that people had been camped out in the parking lots of Toyota Stadium since that Friday, even though the concert was not until 7 p.m. the next day. Regardless, I still did not expect to see some of the hilarious and jaw-dropping things I did when I walked in to the Gold Lot, right at the stadium gates. I know immediately, it was time to join the party!

Jimmy Buffett has been coming to Frisco to play his iconic songs for the past few years now. His wildly-loyal “Parrothead” fans keep him coming back for more, as they provide an unrivaled sense of kinship that makes people look forward to and attend this local event every year. “This is the event to go to in the summer, especially when you live out here,” a Plano resident in attendance at the tailgate told me. “Plano, Frisco, McKinney … people from each nearby city come out for this tailgate and concert every year.”

I arrived a few hours before the show. Let me set the scene for you: Imagine four massive parking lots sprawled outwards from the stadium, packed with row upon row of decked-out RVs, vintage Airstreams and even a few school buses modified into party-friendly set ups. Regardless of the transportation mode, every rig was completely adorned with classic Jimmy Buffett decorations, including leis, hammocks, Margaritaville signs and personalized bars. People dressed to the nines in Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops and coconut and seashell bras (almost exclusively worn by very proud and unabashed men) strolled around lots at their leisure or sat in the shade of their makeshift huts for the weekend, excitedly waiting for the concert to start.

This huge outdoor party could not have been held on a more beautiful day – it was sunny and mild (at least for June in Texas), with a constant breeze blowing through the tailgate tents. At every turn we took down the rows of tailgate stations we were met with life-size pirate ships, DJ setups, grass skirts and tiki hats. I do not think I have seen so many tie-dye or floral shirts in one place at any point in my life. I also cannot think of a time when I have experienced a fan base that spanned across so many years and generations so effortlessly. The ages ranged from early twenties to late fifties and early sixties, but the enthusiasm did not waver from a constant high, no matter how young or old these fans were. 

I saw a Parrothead Polka band and dozens of older fans dancing to their music without a care in the world. The lead singer sipped a margarita and a man played an electric drum set with his hands. I saw airbrush tattoo stations offering colorful dolphins, palm trees and other temporary, paradise-inspired ink designs. I saw more than one limo, several people dressed as pirates and someone who had shaved the chest hair under his unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt into the initials “JB.” I caught on quickly. These people mean business when it comes to Jimmy Buffett.

And yet, the fans surprised me with their atmosphere of general contentment and calm. Sure, when the concert started, most of the RVs and parking lots vacated as the Parrotheads made their way to the stadium, but there was no anxious air of anticipation around the site, even mere minutes before the show started. Everyone was just happy to be there, enjoying themselves in a sunny, breezy, music-filled parking lot, as they were to be going to the concert in a couple of hours. The tailgate was just as big an event, if not bigger, than the concert. Adopting this true laid-back Jimmy Buffett spirit made the whole afternoon, even for a newbie like myself, feel low-key, but exciting. We just got to hang out, meet fellow fans, drink a few beers and listen to some of Jimmy Buffett’s classics while we waited for the main event. 

What also struck me about the crowd, as I curiously meandered through tents and trailers, was how welcoming everyone was. I have never seen fans so committed to an atmosphere, a feeling or a warm vibe. I took a friend along with me for this adventure and we were blown away at the size of the crowd. Each time we reached the end of a lot, we saw another right across the street that was just as packed and alive as the one we had just crossed. As we meandered into the last lot of the evening, past a lime green Jeep with Cheeseburger in Paradise window decals, we were plucked nearly off the pavement by a friendly fan and taken over to a tailgate set up of pick-up trucks, shady tarps, Jimmy Buffett folding chairs and loud music. We were welcomed into their little slice of paradise like we were two of their own. Even though this group of people had grown up with each other since early childhood and we were just a couple of strangers who found themselves experiencing something so different and new, the group made sure we had a great time. We started talking with the group and found out they all grew up together in small town near Amarillo, Texas, and, over the years, they had spread throughout the state to their various places of work and school. What brought them back together? Jimmy Buffett and Frisco. These people were not locals, but they proudly shared how they had been coming to this event for several years now and plan to keep coming as long as the annual event continues to take place. “That is what I love about Buffett,” our new friend explained. “He brings everyone together. There is no one like him … no music like his music.” 

Frisco really is the perfect place for everyone to come together to celebrate all things Jimmy Buffett. While I was there, right next to the soccer fields my brother played on growing up, and across the street from Frisco Square, the city made me feel like I was in the company of a truly unique gathering of people. People who live in Frisco take care of each other and want everyone to feel like family, which was made even more obvious at the Jimmy Buffett event!

While this was something parents would want to call in a babysitter for, as these family-friendly folks know how to party, nothing ever got out of hand. Everything we saw had an element of fun and humor to it. The afternoon was full of adventure and attendees were laidback the entire time. Frisco’s residents welcomed anyone and everyone easily, with an inviting nature that made us all feel at home. Even as someone who had never been to this event before, I felt like I really belonged there.

If you have not been to a Jimmy Buffett event in Frisco, make plans to show up next time! There really is no other event quite like it. You never know! Next year, we might just show up and be the tailgate envy of all the other Parrotheads.