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Blacktip Island Braces For The Running Of The Skeeters

running of the skeeters

Dozens of nude Blacktip Island residents will brave swarms of voracious mosquitos at dusk Saturday in the small Caribbean island’s annual Running of the Skeeters, celebrating summer on the island. (photo courtesy of James Gathany)

Blacktip Island residents this week stocked up on running shoes and cortisone cream in preparation for Saturday’s 23rd annual Running of the Skeeters, celebrating the height of summer, when dozens of residents will sprint nude down a jungle trail at dusk when the island’s mosquitos swarm the thickest.

“Started years ago as a drunken dare, and it’s grown every year since,” RotS organizer Wade Soote said. “The aim is to run from the west coast road, down an overgrown path through the mangroves 100 yards to the beach, then race back out, wearing only shoes or boots.
“It’s become a rite of passage for locals, a way to surrender yourself to the island, and for the island to accept you,” Soote said. “Everybody does it at least once. Some folks do it every year. It’s like a blood sacrifice to the island gods.”

Runners echoes that sentiment.

“It tests your fortitude. Your resolve to live here,” Corie Anders said. “Anybody can come to Blacktip and sit in the air conditioning. Or just go out midday, when the mozzies aren’t feeding. But to be a real Blacktipper, you need to get well-bitten, like our pre-air con ancestors did.

“The secret’s to keep moving—they don’t bite you too much until you stop, usually on the beach or at the road,” Anders said. “Hydrate beforehand and wear good running shoes – you fall, they’ll suck you dry, and no one will stop to help you.”

Some residents voiced concerns about the event.

“They make ‘No Malaria, No Worries’ t-shirts for the runners, to make light of it,” Vera Cuda said. “But that’s ingenuous, at best. Blacktip may not have malaria, but the region has dengue, yellow fever, zika, chikungunya and elephantiasis circulating all around us. It’s utterly irresponsible to purposely get bitten by mosquitos and potentially spread those deadly diseases.”

Island health authorities are prepared for the uptick in bites.

“I’ll be ready at the clinic with cortisone, Benadryl and epi-pens,” island nurse Marissa Graysby said. “And most of the bars will be offering discounted rum for all runners, to help ease the pain. I won’t be on site, of course. If people want to get bug bit, that’s their affair. I’ll be comfortable inside away from the mosquitos.”

Most runners brushed aside concerns.

“Getting bit 80, 100 times, it helps build your immunity to mosquito saliva and to whatever viruses they carry,” Jack Cobia said. “Sure, you feel like a human pincushion, but after the first few minutes, you start to kind of like it.”

“We encourage first-time runners, and’ll give them any pointers we can,” Cobia said. “And nobody’s ogling each other—folks’re running too fast, and swatting too wildly. And it’s not cheating to rub DEET over your sensitive parts.”

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Blacktip Island Kicks Off Inaugural Mosquito Day Festivities

mosquito day

Blacktip Island residents will celebrate the small Caribbean island’s recent surge in mosquito to boost community spirits after months of cursing the insects. (photo courtesy of James Gathany)

Blacktip Island residents, inundated by the rising number of mosquitos on the small Caribbean island, will join together midday Saturday for the inaugural Mosquito Day festival at Diddley’s Landing public pier, festival organizers said.

“With the COVID quarantines in place, the bug spray plane can’t get over here from Tiperon,” chamber of commerce president Led Waite said. “A few months without spray and the island’s just eat-up with skeeters. You got to slather on two layers of repellant just to go outside. It got damned depressing.

“We figured if we can’t beat them, we might as well embrace them,” Waite said. “And there’s usually a nice onshore breeze at Diddley’s Landing, so that’ll keep the worst of them away. Folks’ll be able to relax and enjoy actually being outside without getting bit.”

Organizers say the festival will appeal to all ages.

“We’ll have food and drink stands, of course, and live music. But we’ll have games for the kiddos, too,” Dusty Blenny said. “There’ll be DEET misting stations to make sure everyone’s protected. The little ones just love running through that. And zipping down the bug repellant slip-n-slide and into the sea.

“There’ll also be a ‘pin the proboscis on the belly’ game, where blindfolded kiddos wear a pointy nose and see who can get best poke on a rubber mannequin from the clinic,” Blenny said. “We expect everyone will have a cracking good time.”

In the evening, the festival will shift to more adult-oriented activities.

“We will have tables set up all ‘round, with every sort of liquor available, for a mosquito-themed cocktail-making contest,” Reg Gurnard said. “The drinks may contain anything the contestants want, with the stipulation they must be sipped through a straw. Preference will be given to red cocktails. Extra points will be awarded to any drinks that buzz.

“Mid-afternoon the live music will commence,” Gurnard said. “Local favorites Effing Zeagles and The Social Morays, and Young Jacques and the Double Hose will all perform. There will also be door prizes for attendees with the most mosquito bites, the biggest welt, and the worst allergic reaction.”

Some residents said the festival might be a sign of things to come.

“If this gig picks up peoples’ spirits like I think it will, we could make it a regular thing,” Palometa Fischer said. “The no-see-ums are hell, too—we’ve been spraying our window screens with diesel to keep the little suckers out. We could have a no-see-um festival next month. Or an all-inclusive pain-in-the-butt biting insect fête to cover all the bases.”

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