JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla — A controversial beach festival is planned for Jacksonville Beach in June after apparently wearing out its welcome in the Savannah area.
The Orange Crush Festival is planned for the beach on June 18-20. It has been on the Tybee Island beach near Savannah for several years, but organizers say they relocated due to "civil rights violations and political injustices."
The festival is a loosely organized beach weekend that draws a largely Black college-age crowd. The event's Facebook page promotes it as the "biggest beach festival weekend in the country," with a festival, pool party, block party, car and bike show and photography expo.
"Luckily Jacksonville FL has agreed to be the NEW HOST city for the culturally historic ORANGE CRUSH FESTIVAL brand," the event's Facebook page reads.
Chris Hoffman, mayor of Jacksonville Beach, said Tuesday that no permits have been issued for the festival, but there is nothing to stop anyone from putting on an event on the beach, as long as no admission fee is charged and all laws and regulations are followed. Open containers are not permitted on the beach.
"The city has been aware of this for a while now," the mayor said. "I can say that this group has not made application for any city special event space and does not have any rented special event space."
She said SeaWalk Pavilion and Latham Plaza, the city-owned beachfront amphitheater and plaza commonly used for festivals, is booked for a Summer Art Market on the weekend of Orange Crush.
A statement from the city notes that it is "happy and willing to work with any and all individuals and/or groups to schedule events as long as they adhere to local laws and ordinances."
The 2019 festival on Tybee Island was canceled when organizer George Ransom Turner III was arrested after throwing an unauthorized house party that drew about 200 people. Police said he was actively promoting a party that took place at the home without the homeowner's permission and charging admission, according to a Savannah Morning News story. People still partied on the beach, even though the festival was canceled.
Following the 2018 Orange Crush on Tybee, police reported they had made 36 arrests, including one for discharging a firearm while under the influence. Police reportedly confiscated 10 guns, along with cash, marijuana, ecstasy, THC oil, THC cookies, “various pills” and MDMA. Two shootings connected with the event were reported in 2015.
Tybee Island passed a resolution in 2017 banning public consumption of alcohol and playing amplified music in public spaces over two weekends in April — the weekends of Orange Crush — over the objections of local civil rights leaders.
A promotional video on the Orange Crush website features an interview with Atlanta influencer Jayda Cheaves, discussing her experiences at the festival. She describes it as "parties, music, just turn the beach into like a club." Asked about the wildest things she's witnessed at Orange Crush, she responds: "The people were having sex right on the beach, literally right there, and another crazy thing I saw was they just started shooting and everyone had to just run."