Let the mullet fly.
The Terra Ceia Village Improvement Association voted unanimously Thursday night to go ahead with the "mullet toss" at this year's Terra Ceia Mullet Smoke-Off fundraiser, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 12.
The 98-0 vote thwarted a plea from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to cancel the "toss."
Each year, contestants try their hand at throwing dead mullets into a toilet, wheelbarrow or a wash tub, which are positioned a challenging distance away at Seabreeze Park in Terra Ceia.
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Tossers get three throws for $5. A successful throw could earn tossers half the entrance pot.
The toss has been a tradition at the Smoke-Off for the past 13 years, said Melissa Langdon, event organizer. But a PETA official said Monday that it doesn’t matter that the tossed fish are dead.
“It sends a terrible message to kids when adults are throwing the carcasses of animals,” said Dave Byer, PETA’s manager of corporate affairs based in Los Angeles. “If you wouldn’t throw a dead puppy or kitten into a toilet, why throw a dead fish?”
One or more concerned people had notified PETA about the mullet throw, Byer said Monday.
Byer said studies have shown that fish are capable of feeling pain and suffering, so that throwing a fish carcass is the same as throwing the carcass of any higher-level animal, like a dog or cat.
During the Smoke-Off, between 15 and 20 fishermen catch their own mullet and smoke them. Judges give awards for the best smoked mullet and the mullet toss follows the judging, Langdon said.
There is also plenty of food to eat, including the Smoke-Off’s famous smoked mullet meal, which consists of mullet, potato salad, baked beans and hush puppies for $7.
Eighty percent of all the money raised from the Smoke-Off goes to the Terra Ceia Village Improvement Association to maintain Seabreeze Park and the Village Improvement Association Hall, Langdon said.
Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Manatee County School District’s “Teacher’s Wishing Well,” so teachers can buy supplies, Langdon said.
Organized in 1910, the Terra Ceia Village Improvement Association is the longest ongoing civic association in the state, Langdon said.