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HomeHistoryFlorida Legislature Designates Jimmy Buffet Highway, Creates License Plates

Florida Legislature Designates Jimmy Buffet Highway, Creates License Plates

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If you are a fan of the great Jimmy Buffet, here’s a story you might be interested in. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week signed into law a pair of bills honoring the late singer. The first was HB 91, designating Florida’s iconic A1A highway, the “Jimmy Buffet Highway.” The coastal highway runs from Key West to the Georgia border. Many “parrot heads,” as the singer’s fans are known, feel the honor is long overdue. “It should have been done many years ago,” said fan Kathy Keaton in an online posting.

The second bill of the pair was HB -403, which established a specialty license plate based on the iconic Buffet song “Margaritaville.” Margaritaville has been absorbed into pop culture as a nickname for Key West.

“Margaritaville is just what Florida is all about. Jimmy Buffett is the icon of Florida. No one represents the open sun, beaches, music more than Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville,” said Republican state Sen. Gayle Harrell, who sponsored the bill.

Proceeds from license plate sales will go to a charity founded by Buffett, Singing for Change, and will benefit Florida nonprofits that help victims of hurricanes and other disasters, Harrell said.

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During his career, Buffet became to Florida what John Denver was to Colorado – an adopted “native son.” Best known for his hit “Margaritaville,” Buffett’s career spanned over five decades, blending folk, country, rock, and coastal sounds to create a genre often referred to as “Gulf and Western.”

Florida business leaders are welcoming A1A’s new title. In Flagler Beach, a small coastal town along A1A, Mayor Suzie Johnston expressed her excitement. “Jimmy Buffett has brought so much joy to our town through his music and his Margaritaville lifestyle. This designation is a wonderful way to celebrate his legacy.” Mark Thompson, the owner of a popular beachfront café in Daytona Beach, said, “We’re already seeing an increase in interest from Parrot Heads planning road trips to explore the Jimmy Buffett Highway.”

Buffett’s connection to Florida runs deep. Born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, he moved to Mobile, Alabama, but it was in Key West, Florida, where he found his true calling. The island city’s influence is evident in his music and lifestyle, making A1A a fitting dedication. In December 1974, Jimmy Buffet released his fifth album, which he named A1A. The album contained his hit song “A Pirate Looks at Forty,” as well as a lesser-known song most Floridians would understand, “Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season.” Buffett passed away on Memorial Day weekend, 2023, from Merkel cell carcinoma. He was 76.

Buffet’s music, characterized by its laid-back, tropical vibe and storytelling lyrics, resonated with millions. Buffett’s extensive catalog includes beloved songs like “Come Monday” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” each contributing to his reputation as a master of escapism and the embodiment of the carefree beach lifestyle.

Beyond his music, it’s hard to overlook Buffet’s contributions to the Florida economy. Jimmy Buffett is renowned for his successful ventures in various Florida-based businesses. Notably, he co-founded Margaritaville Holdings LLC, which has become a vast hospitality empire. This includes the popular Margaritaville restaurant and bar chains, with several locations across Florida, such as in Orlando, Key West, and Hollywood. These establishments are known for their vibrant, tropical atmosphere, reflecting the spirit of Buffett’s music.

Additionally, Buffett expanded into the Florida hotel and resort industry with Margaritaville resorts, offering luxurious accommodations that embody the relaxed island lifestyle. Notable Florida locations include the Margaritaville Beach Resort in Hollywood and the Margaritaville Resort Orlando, both providing a unique, immersive experience for guests.

Buffett’s Florida business portfolio also extends to the Latitude Margaritaville retirement communities. These active adult living communities, with locations in Daytona Beach and Watersound, offer residents a taste of the Margaritaville lifestyle, complete with resort-style amenities and a vibrant social atmosphere.

Yet another business venture, Margaritaville at Sea, is a Florida-based cruise line that expanded to the Tampa Bay port only last month, bringing jobs and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Bay area economy. The cruises offer passengers a unique cruising experience, featuring the laid-back, tropical ambiance synonymous with Buffett’s music and lifestyle.

Given all that Buffet’s music has done both for fans and the state’s economy, the new highway designation is an honor well deserved. For Floridians and visitors alike, the Jimmy Buffet Highway will stand as a reminder of the joys of sun, sand, and the timeless allure of the ocean.

In 1981, Florida Governor Bob Graham presented Buffet with an A1A highway sign in recognition of his efforts to save Manatees. Photo: Florida Memory
In 1981, Florida Governor Bob Graham presented Buffet with an A1A highway sign in recognition of his efforts to save Manatees. Photo: Florida Memory
Composite Photo: Jimmy Buffet Performs on the USS Nimitz. [Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael W. Pendergrass / A1A Public Domain]
Composite Photo: Jimmy Buffet Performs on the USS Nimitz. [Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael W. Pendergrass / A1A Public Domain]
Proposed Specialty Plates [FLHSMV]

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