Fish, music, fun: Mullet wraps up

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“This is a family tradition. I’ll do this as long as I can. These are memories my granddaughter and I will have for the rest of our lives.”

JENNIE McKEON @JennieMnwfdn

NICEVILLE — It was a weekend full of fried fish and fun.

The Mullet Festival wrapped up Sunday night with a performance from country legend Tanya Tucker following a weekend of national acts Chris Janson and Frankie Ballard.

The festival has gown in the 42 years since it first started.

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Lannie Corbin, city manager for Niceville and president of the Mullet Festival committee, said the festival really started to catch on in 1992, when they landed a then little-known act named Billy Ray Cyrus. Ever since then, Corbin said they aim to look for “up and coming” acts to perform the festival alongside popular regional names. The Dixie Chicks, Blake Shelton and Rascal Flatts have all been on the Mullet Festival stage.

“My daughter would call me about the bands she would like to see,” he said Sunday afternoon behind the stage. “Sometimes, I hear a song on the radio … that’s what happened when I was in Tallahassee and I heard Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Cruise.’ “

Corbin said there’s more competition for weekend events than when the Mullet Festival first started. Still, he estimates the festival had about 35,000 people throughout the weekend, not counting children under 12 who get into the festival for free.

“We had good weather and no Niceville or Crestview football games,” he said.

As for the mullet — that is the fish, not the hair — Corbin said the festival easily sells more than a ton of the bottom-feeder fish, although now there’s more food choices for festival goers than in the early days.

“I’ve eaten mullet all my life and I consider it a good fish,” he said with a laugh. “Of course, it’s best when it’s fresh and it’s slept in the bay the night before.”

The Mullet Festival continues to be popular because it’s family friendly, Corbin said. On Sunday, Robin Odle walks her 4-year-old granddaughter through the festival as she points to the Ferris Wheel and says “I want to ride that.”

“This is a family tradition,” Odle said. “I’ll do this as long as I can. These are memories my granddaughter and I will have for the rest of our lives.”