On August 1, 2014, the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package Store will mark its 50th year. The “Official” Anniversary Celebration is set to begin Friday, August 1, with a “Blast-to-the-Past” Party featuring ’60s prices and music. Enjoy 50-cent drafts, burgers and fries for only $1.50, along with $1 “War Eagle” and “Crimson Tide” specialty drinks.
Many of the Original “Flora-Bama Players” such as Jay Hawkins, Ken Lambert, Jimmy Louis, “Downtown” Larry Brown, Donna Slater, Cathy Pace and Lea Anne Creswell will be on hand to play hits by the Beatles, Beach Boys, Supremes, Marty Robbins and Roy Orbison (who recorded "Pretty Woman" the same day the Flora-Bama opened) – with a special appearance by Elvis (a.k.a. Jack Robertson) in “Viva Las Vegas”.
A “Surprise” Historical Marker Dedication will take place at 4 p.m., with local dignitaries, present day owners and the founding members of the Tampary family. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres will follow.
The first 25 vehicles, model year 1964 and before, will receive an authentic, autographed brick from the original Flora-Bama, autographed by all owners, then and now. Anyone arriving in a ’64 Mustang, GTO or Malibu is encouraged to call ahead for parking out front.
HISTORY – The Flora-Bama celebrates a colorful past and bright future. After Florida traded two miles of its white sandy beaches to Alabama in exchange for the Perdido Pass Bridge, Theodore “Ted” Tampary, along with his wife Ellen, had the foresight to establish the iconic watering hole on the State Line. An original July 4 opening was postponed due to a “mysterious” fire allegedly set by cohorts of a beach gambling boat and brothel down the road. Yet Ted, Ellen and sons Constantine “Connie” and Anthony “Bubba” would persevere to open the landmark lounge and package store on August 1, 1964.
Ted would create an aura of camaraderie rarely found elsewhere. The Flora-Bama became a haven for folks of all ages and walks of life – from fishermen to boat captains; construction workers to developers; sailors to admirals; students to professors; doctors to lawyers, and families alike.
In April 1978, the Tampary family sold the bar to high school companion Joe Gilchrist, who quickly expanded it, adding a stage for music and a poolroom. His admiration for singer-songwriters would help to establish the annual “Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival.” Soon, the Flora-Bama’s reputation as a "Five Star Honky Tonk" would inspire the likes of Jimmy Buffett to immortalize the bar in song. After digging out from Hurricane Frederick in 1979, a real estate boom was underway. Five years later, the Flora-Bama became so busy Joe asked Pat McClellan to join as partner and general manager in October 1984.
New construction in 1986 paved the way to the first “Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party”. The annual calendar of eclectic events would grow to include the “Annual Polar Bear Dip”, “Super Chili Bowl Cook-Off Saturday”, “Make-It-To-The-Line Run”, “The Mullet-Man Triathlon” and a “Mullet-Swing Golf Classic” – all to benefit local youth programs and charities.
After Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004, rather than repair, the Flora-Bama took the longer, more costly option of rebuilding to safeguard the bar’s posterity for future generations. In the winter of 2010-2011, John McInnis and Cameron Price joined the Flora-Bama family in those reconstruction efforts. A meticulous team effort would help refurbish the main bar from materials and memorabilia saved from the storm. By the spring of 2012, the Flora-Bama was proudly restored to its original grandeur, heralded as “Last of the Great American Roadhouses.”
By 2014, CNN Travel, Yahoo and the Huffington Post had joined Playboy, Maxim, Men's Journal, Southern Living, USA Today andBartender Magazine in naming the Flora-Bama one of the “Best” Beach Bars – not only in the U.S., but in the world.
The Flora-Bama has celebrated its Anniversary Year with new events including March’s “Beach Run/Walk 5K & ½ Marathon” to benefit the Special Operations Warrior Foundation; June’s 2nd Annual “Shindig on the Sand” to honor and ensure health care services for Gulf Coast Musicians; June’s “Flora-Bama (Family) Fishing Rodeo”; and a fall concert with a “Bulls-on-the-Beach” sanctioned bull riding contest.
Through fire, flood and hurricane, the Flora-Bama has remained steadfast in its service to seamen, senators and students alike, treating “all who enter with equal respect, expecting only that same respect for all in return”. That philosophy has resulted in the cast of characters that make the landmark what is today, with a camaraderie that will endure for another 50 years – and beyond.