JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (Note: The video above is from a related story.)
Jacksonville city leaders and law enforcement are preparing for the Orange Crush Festival this weekend, which is expected to bring thousands of people to Jacksonville and its beaches.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office made headlines earlier this week after transferring inmates to make room in the Duval County Jail ahead of the weekend. JSO told First Coast News that was to "ensure the population is at an adequate level to account for arrests while continuing to maintain a safe level to curtail the effects of COVID-19 in the inmate population."
Friday, City Council Vice President Samuel Newby took issue with JSO's decision to make room in the jail due to anticipated arrests during the festival.
"The implication of a proposal of this nature appears to target Orange Crush Festival patrons," said Newby, who is also President-Designate of the City Council. "I have shared my concerns with Sheriff Mike Williams. He has assured me that this procedure is being implemented because our local jail continues to operate under Covid-19 protocols."
Newby said the sheriff assured him that the goal is not to unfairly target nor discriminate against the people attending the festival, which draws a largely Black college-age crowd.
A news release from JSO says the agency has been working alongside the City of Jacksonville and Beaches area leaders to prepare for the event, which the release calls "the first large scale event without participant restrictions since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic."
Is Orange Crush Festival the first large-scale event without COVID-19 restrictions since the start of the pandemic?
- Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
- Daily's Place
- Jax Beach Festivals
- VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena
No, Orange Crush Festival will not be the first large event in Duval County without participant restrictions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHAT WE FOUND
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been dozens of events held in Duval County, the majority of which involved some level of participant restrictions. But, since early spring of 2021, there have been several events which did not involve restrictions.
Orange Crush is set to begin Friday and run through the late evening hours of Sunday, with multiple events scheduled all three days and venues spanning from the Beaches into Downtown Jacksonville.
In a release from JSO, Sheriff Mike Williams said, “We are pleased to have a collaborative approach to welcoming the 3-day festival into our community. Large scale events like these are not new to our folks and we are ready."
Here are a few of the recent events in Duval County that had zero or few COVID-19 restrictions for participants:
- Seawalk Music Festival
Jax Beach Festivals and Community First Credit Union hosted the outdoor festival without capacity restrictions or mask mandates. The two-day event included free entertainment, artists and food vendors on June 12 and June 13 at the Seawalk Pavilion at Jacksonville Beach.
- UFC 261
UFC 261 took place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with a sold-out, full-capacity crowd on April 24. Masks were not required, but fans did have to complete a digital health screening before entering the venue.
- Machine Gun Kelly show
Daily's Place held a sold-out, full-capacity Machine Gun Kelly concert the night before the UFC fight. The venue did not require masks or enforce social distancing, but did encourage anyone feeling sick to stay home.
- Jax River Jams
Over the course of four Thursdays in April, the City of Jacksonville hosted a free concert series at the former site of the Jacksonville Landing in Downtown Jacksonville. Concertgoers enjoyed the tunes of Chase Rice, New Found Glory, Quad City DJ's and Sugar Ray. While the concert series' promotional materials said face masks and social distancing would be required, they were not enforced.
For Orange Crush, Williams and city leaders say they are ready to welcome the crowds to Duval County.
"I am confident the men and women of JSO will provide an exceptional level of service to both our residents and visitors for this busy weekend," Williams said. "As always, JSO is here to assist anyone in need. We want everyone to have a safe and fun weekend."