Pete's Turkey Day Celebration still on

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – A big bash in Neptune Beach is still on for Thanksgiving.

Pete's Turkey Day Celebration was nearly called off earlier this year due to a lack of safety that comes with the large crowd.

Last year it was estimated there were more than 1,000 people filling the roadway between Orange Street and Atlantic Boulevard before 9:30 a.m.

The annual party started as a small gathering about 30 years ago at Pete's Bar on First Street and then grew to an experience taking up most of the Beaches Town Center streets.

"Well, it started out with two or three people coming in to keep a bartender company because he had no customers, and every year they would bring a few more people," day manager Nancy Jensen said.

Thousands flock to Neptune Beach for Thanksgiving Day, bringing in something Pete's Bar is thankful for: business.

"We do two or three times the business in four or five hours on Thanksgiving Day what we do on Dancing in the Streets," Jensen said. "So it's a huge day compressed into four or five hours."

The event is now ingrained in Neptune Beach Thanksgiving Day culture.

Jensen said the growing size of the event is impressive and even more notable is the lack of any issues. She said in the 30 years of celebrating, there has only been one disturbance.

"This year the party area will be barricaded. There will be a police officer at every entrance," Jensen said.

Those safety measures the city wanted Pete's to take were going to be very costly, which is why the celebration was nearly a no-go. But now the city is taking care of the expenses of the police officers on duty, as well as paying for the barricades.

There are some new rules this year to know before you go: no backpacks, large purses, packages, dogs, skateboards or bicycles; and you cannot bring in your own alcohol.

Also this year, portable toilets will be provided to the public.

"People always come up and thank you for, you know, being open," Jensen said. "We have many, many people who live here and that have no family here and can't go home."

There is no entry fee, just the cost of drinks. The event starts at 9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

About the Author: