JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The July Fourth holiday is expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors to Duval County’s beaches over the three-day weekend, and the cities are preparing for the post-pandemic tourism surge.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Jacksonville Beach resident Megan Farrell said. “People are going to be going insane. There are parties up and down First Street every single year -- you just walk around and go to every party that’s around. It’s so fun though.”
After last year’s July Fourth events were largely hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, many are expecting 2021 to see a resurgence of full-scale celebration.
“There’s so much pent-up energy, people wanting to get out and get back to normal,” Jacksonville resident Allen Lewis said. “I think it’s going to be twice as fun as a normal year.”
Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown said she’s expecting a massive turnout at the beaches.
“I think it’s going to be huge,” Brown said. “People love the Fourth of July, they love fireworks, they love getting out and going to the beach, so combine all of those with having been kept down last year and nothing to celebrate.”
The Neptune Beach Police Department announced that restrictions would be in place for parking and through traffic from Saturday through Monday.
“We have additional officers, of course, all the Neptune Beach officers will be on duty this weekend,” Neptune Beach Police Chief Richard Pike said. “The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has assigned several officers out here to assist us. We have extra lifeguards on. We’ll have extra chairs out for additional coverage on the beach, five police officers assigned on the beach on First Street, and basically east of Third. We’ll have plenty of officers to help the traffic coming in and leaving when the fireworks are over.”
Law enforcement will also be out in full force in Atlantic Beach, according to Cmdr. Tiffany Layson with the Atlantic Beach Police Department.
“We are having extra officers working all shifts, and are using the sheriff’s office to assist with traffic control on Atlantic Boulevard,” Layson said. “We want to ensure that everyone’s weekend is as safe and fun as possible.”
Law enforcement agencies at the beaches urged visitors to remember some important rules:
- Open containers of alcohol are not allowed on the beach or other public areas.
- Make sure you are parking in a spot that is legal. Citations will be issued to illegally parked vehicles.
- As always, do NOT drive while intoxicated.
- Swimmers should stay near one of the posted lifeguard towers.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and wear adequate sun protection.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue personnel echoed the safety reminders, including an important warning to parents.
“We encourage everyone to stay right with their kids,” said Capt. Rob Emahiser with Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. “Assign someone to be with the kids, watch the kids in the water or on land. Whatever they’re doing, you do. If you need a break, assign someone else to take over that responsibility.”
While Independence Day falls on Sunday, on the following day the holiday is observed by most municipalities.
Those who wish to catch the fireworks displays can check out this list for the locations and times of displays in their area.