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Opinion: Orange Crush proves Jacksonville still has work to do

Dozens of local businesses closed up shop completely during the festival because apparently, people are more scared of Orange Crush than they are of hurricanes.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to show that Fly's Tie was not closed or at reduced capacity.)

I don’t know what’s higher this weekend. The humidity level or the racial tension in this city.

Friday night was the first night of Orange Crush in Jacksonville, a predominantly Black festival that was projected to draw thousands of people with events taking place all over the city but in particular, Downtown Jacksonville.

To that I say good. Maybe the events will force Jacksonville to remember that we actually have a downtown.

The festival moved to Duval County after taking place on Tybee Island's beach near Savannah for years. Organizers said they relocated to Jacksonville due to "civil rights violations and political injustices".

Hotels booked up quickly in the area but instead of welcoming the added economic boost to a community still healing from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office moved inmates to make additional room in the jail.

RELATED: Jacksonville jail temporarily moving inmates to make room ahead of Orange Crush

Dozens of local businesses closed up shop completely because apparently, people are more scared of Orange Crush than they are of hurricanes.

One of those businesses included the restaurant inside the newly opened Margaritaville Hotel in Jacksonville Beach. 

An employee told First Coast News that the restaurant didn't have enough staff to run it safely during the festival but had no problem serving up cheeseburgers in paradise the weekend prior during the SeaWalk Music festival.

Additionally on the hotel's website, Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19 were not available days where customers could book rooms. The dates were labeled as "restricted" by the hotel's website. 

Management would not give a comment. 

Other businesses including Pete's in Neptune Beach and Time Out Sports Grill also closed during at least one day of the festival. Others are operating at reduced capacity,

As if forfeiting thousands of dollars in potential profits wasn't enough of a long-term loss, then let the sting of peaceful streets and empty jails echo loudly in your shuttered businesses. 

RELATED: 'More cops than Orange Crushers': Orange Crush organizers question need for high police presence

Community reactions to the announcement of the festival being brought here ranged. While we can't count out the ones that were actually excited about the festival coming here, there were others who did not share the same enthusiasm.

Emotions on local Facebook groups ranged from mildly apprehensive to aggressive. Grown men and women exchanging words steeped in fear and ignorance. 

"Why here? Tell all them to go home" 

"More like Watermelon Crush"

"Have a reputation of being rowdy/lawless and you're going to find it hard..."

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Christian Hancock sent out a statement Friday assuring that local leaders "have been working together to prepare for the Orange Crush Festival, the first large-scale event without participant restrictions since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic."

Except it's not.

UFC 261 took place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena with a sold-out, full-capacity crowd on April 24. Daily's Place held a sold-out, full-capacity Machine Gun Kelly concert the night before the fight.

The City of Jacksonville hosted a free concert series at the former site of the Jacksonville Landing in Downtown Jacksonville on dates throughout April.

And Jax Beach Festivals and Community First Credit Union hosted the Seawalk Music Festival last weekend.

Why the big community hubbub, extra law enforcement, transfer of inmates and shuttered businesses for Orange Crush and not these events?

Because it's easy to do when nobody sees it as a problem.

Jacksonville has work to do.

Follow @CaseyFeindt on Twitter