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Parrot Heads with Purpose

Local Jimmy Buffett fans raise money for USO

Parrot heads meet in Olympia next week to support USO and jam to the tunes. Photo credit: Lloyd Bondy

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The term "Parrot Head" was coined in 1985 at a Jimmy Buffett concert in Cincinnati, Ohio. At the show, Jimmy commented about everyone wearing Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats and how they kept coming back to see his shows, just like Grateful Dead followers, Deadheads. Thus, the term "Parrot Head" was coined to describe each of those fans.

Since then, the group has grown to a nonprofit status, whose primary purpose is to support charitable causes through fundraising and community service projects.

Spanning across the United States and throughout Canada and Australia, Parrot Head members reach over 30,000. Members congregate regularly to "Party with a Purpose," raising money for charity. In the 10-year period from 2002-2011, member clubs of the international Parrot Head organization raised over $26.2M to support charitable organizations, and collectively worked almost 2.9 million hours of community service.

Locally, The Parrot Heads of Puget Sound has a strong following, with members coming together annually for the Laid Back Attack, where Buffet fans "Party With A Purpose Along The Shores Of Puget Sound."

The first 12 Laid Back Attacks raised nearly $75,000 for local charities, and this year will be the second year those funds will support the USO, or United Service Organizations, whose mission is to provide morale, welfare and recreation-type services to uniformed military personnel.

"We are very proud and excited to be one of the largest contributors to this great organization and to support their work serving the men and women of the armed services and their families," says Rob Hill, co-chair of this year's event.

Laid Back Attack is the 4th largest contributor in Washington state, behind Microsoft and Boeing.

"We drink rum and beer and margaritas and somehow end up writing tens of thousands of dollars in checks - it's a pretty great formula," laughs Hill.

The three-day festival takes place July 9-12 at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia. Laid Back Attack boasts 14 musical acts, providing more than 25 hours of original Trop-Rock music. Think steel drums, island-style, reggae and more. (Fun Fact: Buffett referred to his own style as Drunken Caribbean Rock ‘n Roll).

Saturday's headlining band at this year's Laid Back Attack is The Boat Drunks, who have opened for Jimmy Buffett, The Beach Boys and Little Feat and have performed with nearly every member of Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. Other headliners include Stars on the Water with special guest artist Amy Lee, who has worked extensively with Buffett, and The Calypsonuts, a high-energy husband/wife team.

Games, prizes and other entertainment, such as themed nights, a pub crawl and tropical door-decorating contest are part of the fun. A live and silent auction are huge components as well, with this year's hot ticket being a private Caribbean cruise for up to a dozen people.

While this year's event is sold out, anyone interested in joining Parrot Heads of Puget Sound, or learning more about the organization and Laid Back Attack are encouraged to check out the webpages at www.phops.com and www.laidbackattack.com.

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