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Extra security planned for festival coming to Jacksonville beaches

A popular beach festival has its sights set on Jacksonville’s beaches.
A popular beach festival has its sights set on Jacksonville’s beaches.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – A popular beach festival has its sights set on Jacksonville’s beaches.

The Orange Crush weekend is set for June 18 to June 20. It’s typically held in Tybee Island, Georgia, but after nearly three decades, organizers have said it will now be in the Jacksonville area. However, organizers haven’t pulled any permits with any government offices, News4Jax found.

Viral videos from years past show large crowds and parties on the streets and beaches of Tybee Island. Other videos show the aftermath like trash strewn across the sand and road. Police said they are preparing for extra security for the event.

Posts about the festival call the Jacksonville area the new host for the event, which attracts thousands annually.

One post says the party “permanently relocated due to lack of resources, limited parking, civil rights violations, and political injustices.”

“Unfortunately, they have not booked any event space with us so we don’t have the point of contact with a special event that we would have with a special event in Jacksonville Beach,” said Jacksonville Beach Mayor Christine Hoffman.

She noted there’s no permit for an event here or at the other area beaches, like Neptune and Atlantic. The beaches are public so people can come and go as they please, but they must follow the rules, like no drinking on the beach or in the streets.

“Certainly were keeping an eye on things and checking things as they come,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said she was focused on education of the rules in place, which should come before enforcement of violations.

Jacksonville Beach’s police chief Gene Paul Smith said his officers will be ready for whatever comes, working with local, state and federal agencies. He noted he’s had no contact with the organizers.

On Saturday, organizers contacted News4Jax to say they have since scheduled a meeting with Jacksonville Beach city officials and will give us an update after the initial conference.

Smith said the attendance in peak years was up to 15,000 people.

“There have been no applications for special events associated with this event by the City of Jacksonville at any of our rentable locations,” he said. “The promoter of the event has not been willing to communicate with our organization about the event.”

Mayor Shirley Sessions of Tybee Island raised her concerns about the challenges authorities face.

“During the evening we did see some traffic, people speeding through neighborhoods that was problematic,” she told News4Jax. “The evening crowd seems to be more of a concern.”

She said there were issues with alcohol use, reckless drivers speeding and running stop signs and partiers blocking traffic. She added at the last event, shots were fired near the pier but no one was hurt. She likened the effort from police and government leaders as similar to preparing for July 4th or Spring Break.

“I think Jacksonville will be a welcoming community,” she said. “That’s always important that people feel welcome. But also at the understanding that there are rules and regulations and we expect everyone to matter who you are, to follow them and to be respectful to our community.”

Sessions pointed out Jacksonville’s beaches are larger with more parking. They also already prohibit alcohol consumption on the beach and in public streets.

News4Jax tried calling and emailing the organizers of Orange Crush but has not heard back.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.