5. The house-made BBQ: As soon as you pulled up into the west lot, you could smell it. The casino's culinary staff, led by Executive Chef Francois Ternes, frocked in full hillbilly garb, turned out some fab smoked brisket and pulled pork sandwiches, each hailing from two huge smokers on the front lawn. The brisket was tender and smoky and paired great with the Tootsie Roll BBQ sauce used, which was mildy sweet and reminiscent of the namesake candy but spiced enough that it was well-balanced. For just $8, it came with gooey mac and cheese, some so-so cole slaw, and a limitless helping of soft, succulent boiled peanuts.
4. The air-conditioned music tent: That summertime Florida heat can really put a damper on afternoon-long drinking sessions, especially if you're grooving to some music. Thankfully, the casino tented off the music area and pumped in plenty of cold air, making for quite an enjoyable boozing experience.
3. People watching: If one needed a break from the sanctity of the tent, all you had to do was walk a couple of feet inside the casino's doors and watch the display inside. The multi-chromatic display of well-to-dos, gambling degenerates, retirees, housewives, sugar daddies, and bravado-stricken poker players was truly inspiring. Almost more fun than watching the hippie chicks dance awkwardly to the music inside the tent. I think I spotted Jackie Jormp-Jomp convulsing in the crowd.
2. Short beer lines: These sort of fests usually pack so tight that you have to wait in line ten minutes each time you want to grab a thimble-full of beer. Not so here, where the lines were nonexistent and the beer supply never-ending. Maybe the casino didn't sell as many tickets as it had hoped. But it was an absolute pleasure not having to bump and grind against a pack of sweaty, beer-hungry dudes each time I wanted to refill my sizable fest mug (which, at about 4 ounces big, was the perfect size). Big props, btw, to one of my new favorite beers, Brooklyn Lager. I must've had 20 of them.
1. The Heavy Pets: Maybe it was the addition of Felix Pastorius that put the Pets over the edge, but these guys absolutely rocked the crowd. Yes, Dr. John was great too, but the Pets' jam band-ey goodness was the perfect fit for the affair. They played for a solid hour and a half, but most everyone wanted more. Alas, they had to leave -- they were off to the Dive Bar for a second show right afterward.