LONG BEACH — After 11 years, the annual Jake the Alligator Man birthday party pretty much runs like a well-oiled hot rod. That’s not to say it doesn’t retain some of its rough edges.
“I never want to completely polish it to a perfect shine,” said organizer Wendy Murry, “it would lose some of its DIY feel. It will always have some quirky things.”
The opening night festivities on Friday celebrated the area’s most famous sideshow attraction, with karaoke following the burlesque show.
“We had no clue what we were in for,” said Murry. She said the karaoke mashups between singers from various out-of-town bands in attendance turned interesting. “It’s the only place you will see things this weird — in a good way. We might do that again because it got so weird.”
On Saturday, Veterans Field in downtown Long Beach was teeming with classic cars and rat rods, vendors of various curiosities, even a sideshow with magician. Bands filled the afternoon and evening air with music as the crowd grew in anticipation of the Bride of Jake contest.
“Every year we do five to seven bands,” said Murry, noting that with seven bands this year, “It will never be fuller than this.”
As always, the big draw was the Bride of Jake contest, with various paramours vying for the annual title. This year’s batch of contestants included a pair of Star Wars-themed contestants, as well as a circus sideshow performer who walked blindfolded up a ladder made of sword blades.
“Miss Spooky is a true side show professional,” Murry explained.
“(She’s) performed with the World of Wonders traveling circus sideshow.”
The eventual winner was punk rock guitarist Lisa Flemming, who wrapped up a set with her band Pistol Whiplash right before the contest. Fleming earned points for her humor — and her cake decorating skills.
“She was hilarious. I think that’s why she won,” said Murry of Flemming, who made Jake a cake during the talent portion. “She’s a cake decorator in real life.”
And thanks to Murry, the fun of the event lives on from year to year — now in its second decade.
“To me, it’s a giant art project with many moving pieces and I get to bring these amazing artists together and they create,” she said.