Blacktip Island’s four mayoral candidates will compete in a Hungry, Hungry Hippos tournament Saturday to determine which two move on to next month’s general election. (photo courtesy of Dave Fischer)
In an effort to combat low voter turnout, Blacktip Island’s four mayoral candidates will face off in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos Sunday at the Caribbean island’s Heritage house, with the two candidates receiving the most crowd support moving on to next month’s general election.
“Last time around we only had three people vote,” election chief Wade Soote said. “That’s how we ended up with a hermit crab as mayor. So we decided to make this election a public spectacle – on Blacktip, that’s guaranteed to draw a crowd. We were gonna have a Whack-A-Mole tourney, but this seemed more dignified. And no one had a Whack-A-Mole game.
“The mayor’s got no power and really doesn’t do anything other than make the occasional speech,” Soote said. “People basically ignore him. But we’re determined to keep democracy alive and well on Blacktip. And to keep crustaceans out of public office.”
This year’s candidates include former mayor Jack Cobia, resort owner Elena Havens, activist Val Schrader and ne’er-do-well Dermott Bottoms.
Island residents supported the idea.
“Blacktippers are always up for a party, so this really isn’t as whacky as it sounds,” Alison Diesel said. “The mayor’s a stuffed shirt, and doesn’t get paid. Why not have some fun with it and bring the community together?”
Election officials have built a small arena for the expected crowd
“We’ve erected a four-sided grandstand so everyone can see the game table in the center,” election supervisor Rocky Shore said. “Fans’ll sit behind their favorite candidate, and we’ll have multiple decibel meters deployed to determine which section’s cheering loudest.
“The official game board’ll be the classic setup of Lizzie the purple hippo, Henry the orange hippo, Homer the green hippo and Harry the yellow one, though candidates can prep with any version,” Shore said. “Hippos will be assigned to candidates at random to avoid any allegations of game tampering.”
Candidates are taking different approaches to prepare for the election.
“I’ve been doing wrist exercises to increase my stamina,” Cobia said. “This hippo game ends in ties a bunch, so I’m prepping for multiple games. Like most things, it’s all in how fast you can whack that lever.”
Others employed different techniques.
“I meditate while resort guests play the game beside me, focusing on the flow of the play,” Havens said. “A mindful, steady rhythm works far better than Jack’s rabbit-on-Adderall approach.”
Officials have waived no-alcohol election day rules to allow multiple beer stalls at the game site.
“We want as many people as possible participating in this election,” Soote said. “If beer gets people to buy into the process, so be it. And alcohol’s considered a performance-enhancing drug in competitive Hungry, Hungry Hippos circles, so we’re hopeful it’ll help the candidates, too.”