Sand fleas swarm over seaweed strewn on the Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort beach in preparation for Saturday’s Blacktip Island Sand Flea Festival. The festival culminates with a winner-takes-all naked crawl across the flea-infested beach. (photo courtesy of Lamiot)
Blacktip Island residents are bracing for Saturday’s annual Sand Flea Festival honoring local monks slain by Norse raiders.
“It’s the first gala fête of the Blacktip Island party season,” said event’s organizer Payne Hanover. “It’s a great mid-winter pick up. And having it during Lent means everyone can suffer, regardless of religious affiliation.”
The festival has its roots in Medieval times.
“For Lenten penance in the 13th and 14th centuries, island monks would fast, drink coconut mead, then strip naked and roll on the beach at sunrise and sunset to get as flea-bitten as possible,” Island historian Smithson Altschul said.
“In 1557 Norse raiders were blown off course, landed on Blacktip and slaughtered all the monks wriggling in the sand,” Altschul said. “After the Vikings left, locals kept up the sand flea tradition to honor the fallen monks.”
Recently, the festival morphed into a celebration of an island scourge.
“We figure if we can’t beat the no-see-ums, we might as well embrace them,” festival committee member Kay Valve said. “We throw a big party in their honor. Of course, on this island, we’ll throw a party in just about anyone’s honor.”
The festival, at Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort this year, will feature flea-themed food and drinks, a flea circus and a flea-bite henna tattoo stand.
Live music will be provided by local favorites The Social Morays, TURTLE!!!, and Young Jacques and the Double Hose.
As ever, the highlight of the festival will be the 100-meter naked beach crawl at dusk, with the winner being the contestant who takes the most time to complete the course. The victor will receive a case of Benadryl and be compensated for all medical expenses.
Prizes will also be awarded for most sand flea bites, largest bite and most painful-looking bite. Winners of each category will receive a Sandy Bottoms Beach Resort tank top and a year’s supply of calamine lotion.
“This is such a wonderful event,” Sandy Bottoms guest Suzy Souccup said. “I met my husband at Flea Fest years ago. We were on the beach in our skivvies, our eyes met, and fireworks went off.
“These were actual fireworks, you understand, from the resort,” Souccup said. “We stood staring at each other for so long, the sand fleas about ate us alive. We spent the rest of the night side-by-side in the clinic, getting IV cortisone and rubbing calamine on each other. It was magical.”
The festival is sponsored by Benadryl.