The Parrotheads began arriving about noon. By 1 p.m., the party had started, and by 2 p.m., people were feeling that laid-back island vibe — regardless of how many margaritas one had or had not consumed.

Jimmy Buffett was in the city for a Thursday concert at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion on the Bangor Waterfront — and his fans followed, hailing from all over the Northeast and Canada. Few other musical acts inspire such devotion as Buffett, who turns 70 this year and who has released 27 albums since 1970.

Parrotheads, as the iconic singer’s fans are known, don’t do low key, so naturally, the tailgating to be found on the Bangor Waterfront in the hours leading up to the 7 p.m. concert was loud and exuberant. Inflatable palm trees and parrots were displayed in just about every pop-up tent lining the parking lot. Hawaiian shirts, leis and grass skirts were the uniform. There was music everywhere. There was a truck costumed as a shark, a margarita fountain and seemingly endless Jell-O shots.

Though there were plenty of folks tailgating who had seen Buffett 10 or more times, there were just as many who were newbies — such as Susan McKnight and Gwen Borthwick of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Crystal Burgess of Grand Manan, New Brunswick, and Heidi Richardson of Deer Isle, a group of friends attending their first Buffett show.

“We’ve never seen him. We’re virgins. We’ve been fans for our whole lives. I try to winter in the Keys, so I feel like I’m a Buffett fan by default,” said Richardson. “We really lucked out, because our husbands said they didn’t want to come, so it’s just a girls trip. We’re swinging solo.”

Likewise, Mike and Jeanne Walker of Cornville also were Buffett first-timers.

“I hate to say this was a bucket list thing, but this is something I’ve always wanted to do: come to a Jimmy Buffett concert for this right here, for the pre-concert part,” said Mike Walker, who already had seen Dave Matthews Band and Journey so far this summer in Bangor. “The funny thing is, neither of us drink, but we’re feeling fantastic. We’re just here for a good time.”

Fran Dietrich, who was hanging out by his tent wearing a grass skirt and coconut bra (and not much else), has seen Buffett eight times. He was vacationing on Mount Desert Island last month, but he decided to come back to Maine all the way from his Pennsylvania home to see Buffett with some friends. Dietrich said it was his first time at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.

“This place is great. The people have been super. You have a venue to be proud of,” said Dietrich. “We tailgate every year. We love the friendship and camaraderie among everyone. You can’t help but love it.”

Though technically drinking in public is not allowed on city property, it appeared that city staff — including the many Bangor Fire Department personnel stationed on land and in boats in the river — were looking the other way. Nearly everyone had a beer in hand — if not an outrageously large margarita or daiquiri. The Bangor Police Department mentioned the concert in a Facebook post earlier in the day.

“The Bangor Police Department will be very visible all over the city today. We are not out to ruin a good time but we also need to make sure we keep everyone happy and safe. We expect no problems and are pretty excited,” police said in the post.

There were a number of different examples of unique ways by which to funnel alcohol into one’s mouth, be it by luge, extremely long straw, or a downhill ski retrofitted with six shot glasses, for six people to all take together.

“Part of the reason people love it is that for one day, everybody’s all on the same team and everybody’s having fun. It’s great when a city lets people relax the rules and have a little fun, because none of this would happen otherwise,” said Kim Hughes of Fredericton, New Brunswick, who has seen Buffett 12 times. “We’re so glad you good folks from Maine have made our drive a little shorter, because we always went to Mansfield, [Massachusetts], before.”

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.