Sunday, July 26, 2009

Flora-Bama: 'Last Great American Roadhouse'

Local legend has it that after Hurricane Ivan partially destroyed the Flora-Bama in September 2004, folks found bras scattered along the beach for more than 20 miles. That’s right, brassieres: there used to be hundreds of them tacked up over many of the 20 bars, one of the many hallmarks that make the Flora-Bama a truly classic destination.
Flora-Bama Lounge & Package (www.florabama.com) is a beachside nightclub and live music venue that straddles the Florida and Alabama state line. The mailing address is Pensacola, but it’s really closer to Orange Beach, Alabama. The original Flora-Bama was built around 1964. The ‘Bama reopened soon afterwards and patrons immediately returned. Renovations have continued slowly but the Flora-Bama has remained open, and the bra collection is being rebuilt as well.
Holidays like the Fourth of July always draw huge crowds and weekend-long parties. But the real not-to-be missed signature event is the Annual Interstate Mullet Toss in April. Yep, competitors line up for the change to toss fresh fish from the Florida side into Alabama. They held the 25th toss in 2009, and the winners’ names and distances are posted on the Web site.
Superlatives come easily here. The Flora-Bama bills itself as the “last great American roadhouse.” Bikers, celebrities and just-plain-folks pack the watering hole, including the NFL’s Manning Brothers and Kid Rock. There’s music seven nights a week, as many as five bands can perform at the same time on the weekend. Jimmy Buffett – who grew up along the Alabama coast – wrote “Bama Breeze” about the Flora-Bama and similar memorable spots along the coast. From redneck cultural landmark to internationally known tacky d├ęcor, the Flora-Bama is a must-see.

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