Diddley’s Landing public pier will be the new home of Blacktip Island’s expanded Spring Fling conch fritter-throwing contest Saturday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Jay Valve)
Blacktip Island residents will welcome spring to the island this Saturday with an expanded version of the annual Spring Fling conch fritter-throwing contest at Diddley’s Landing public pier.
“Historically, the Fling was always done at the Heritage House,” event organizer Jay Valve said. “But the crowds got so big, and the flingers developed such range, we’ve moved it to Diddley’s Landing and’ll have flingers tossing their fritters out into the water.
“We’ve marked off distances with floats, and will have judges on snorkels to mark exactly where each fritter lands,” Valve said. “We have a record number of contestants this year. And there’ll be extra points awarded if any of them hit a judge.”
Locals say the event is a time-honored island tradition.
“Blacktippers have lived off conch fritters for generations,” island historian Smithson Altschul said. “But staples can become tiresome. The Spring Fling started decades ago when Dermott Bottoms’ daddy got sick of eating fritters and threw one as far as he could. Then other people at the bar, all drinking, tried to outdo him.
“Personally, I think the Fling is the only proper use for conch fritters,” Altschul said. “These days, tourists’ll eat them, but that’s about it. Or when someone’s very hung over.”
Organizers say they modified the rules this year to ensure a fairer competition.
“Years past, folks were adding rocks and fishing weights and God-knows-what to their batter to make their fritters fly farther,” Doris Blenny said. “This year we’re requiring all fritter batter to be mixed and cooked on site.
“We’re also requiring all fritters to be technically edible,” Blenny said. “We’ll have judges watching the cooking, and tasting were necessary. We also don’t want fish eating anything unhealthy.”
Some in the community opposed the event.
“This is an utter waste of food,” Angela Fisher said. “With so many people going hungry around the world, it’s not right. Why not use those ingredients to make something people want to eat?”
Organizers were quick to defend the Fling.
“This is one of our oldest island traditions,” Valve said. “We tried using faux fritters a few years back, but the turnout was pretty dismal. And this a seasonal celebration, after all, not some Astroturf dog-and-pony show.
“If anybody, anywhere, is starving, they’re welcome welcome to come here and eat all the fritters they want” he said. “Until then, Angela can keep her yap shut and we’ll keep chucking fritters.”