Airport Name Still Doable but FL’s Approved Other Changes to Honor Jimmy Buffett

by SharonKurheg

Back in September, the iconic Jimmy Buffett passed away after a four-year fight with a rare and aggressive skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma, which is said to be three to five times more deadly than melanoma.

Buffett’s first popular tune, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk?” was released in 1973. But it was “Margaritaville,” in 1977, that turned Buffett into a star for the next 50 years, with more than 20 million copies of his albums sold.

He was known for his tropical rock sound and persona, which was undoubtedly influenced by living in Key West throughout the 1970s and 80s. So it’s not surprising that, just days after Buffett’s death on September 1 of last year, a petition began to rename Key West International Airport in honor of him.

Of course, renaming an airport is no small task, as the Palm Beach Post summarized a few months ago:

The rights of the Buffett name need to be taken into account before the airport can be renamed. There is also the question of costs, and legal issues…the county needs to take into account. The Federal Aviation Administration would also need to allow the name change. After this is done, the name change would go to the people of the county to decide upon.

Which isn’t to mean that the “Key West Jimmy Buffett International Airport” couldn’t eventually come to fruition; just that it would be a long process.

That being said, there are other, faster ways Florida’s Senate can give Buffett, 76 at the time of his death, his due. And now that the state legislature has reconvened, they’ve done just that; they unanimously approved two bills to honor him.

The first bill will rename State Road A1A, the historic scenic highway that winds about 340 miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The new name will be the Jimmy Buffett Memorial Highway (“A1A” is also the title of Jimmy Buffett’s fifth studio album, released in late 1974).

a man sitting in a chair under palm leaves“As Jimmy once said, ‘It’s a sweet life living by the salty sea,’ and we could not think of a better way to honor him than by memorializing him along Florida’s coastal highway,” said Senate Democratic leader Lauren Book, who sponsored the bill.

The other bill will create a specialty license plate with the word “Margaritaville” — the aforementioned Buffett song released in 1977. These are the versions they’re considering (I like Option 4, how about you?):

a collection of license platesFlorida offers over 100 different specialty license plates for various organizations. Each one supports the causes they represent. Proceeds from “Margaritaville” license plate sales would go to a charity founded by Buffett, called Singing for Change, and would benefit Florida nonprofits that help victims of hurricanes and other disasters.

“Margaritaville is just what Florida is all about. Jimmy Buffett is the icon of Florida. No one represents the open sun, beaches, music more than Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville,” said Republican state Sen. Gayle Harrell, who sponsored this bill.

Although a final decision of which license plate to offer Floridians hasn’t been made, the Florida Department of Transportation will be required to “erect suitable markers designating Jimmy Buffett Memorial Highway” by Aug. 30, 2024.

Feature photo: Picryl

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