It’s Saturday, July 27, and the Put-in-Bay islanders are prepared for the worst.
After the drunken crowds of 2018 resulted in more than two dozen arrests, a social media firestorm and garbage strewn around Put-in-Bay, the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses promised to put a permanent end to the already-unofficial Christmas in July.
By 10:30 a.m., eight Ottawa County sheriff cars have boarded the Miller Ferry from Catawba Island, Ohio. A tour bus pulls in to drop passengers off. The line for tickets stretches from the booth toward the street. Officers direct traffic, and parking lots around the ferry fill up, including grassy yards that locals have converted into parking.
But on the island itself, it seems like just another Put-in-Bay weekend. Children shoot around the playground at DeRivera Park, kicking their legs up on screeching swings and climbing over monkey bars. Packs of women wear matching bachelorette party tattoos: “Bride Tribe.” Some tourists cruise around on bikes, but most of them chug down the two-lane streets on golf carts. Music pours from the open front windows of bars and restaurants, but bouncers look bored, slumped over their stools like Rodin’s “Thinker.”
Away from the main streets, hundreds of people squeeze into hotel pools with swim-up bars, dancing with their drinks held aloft as DJs spin from shaded platforms. Women stand at the edge of the pool deck twerking in string bikinis. Drinks range from beer to neon-colored cocktails. Hanging from the second-floor balcony of the Commodore Resort are pink crepe flowers and a gold sign proclaiming: SAME PENIS FOREVER.
Beyond the strip of bars and restaurants on Delaware Avenue, more families visit tourist attractions like Perry’s Monument. The 352-foot Doric column built to honor the War of 1812 opens its observation deck to visitors every day. From the top, South Bass Island looks like two chunks of forest, interrupted only by the downtown and a small airport. A helicopter buzzes overhead and ferries pull into the harbor, but otherwise the only sounds are birds and wind.
The Parks employee working the elevator at the Monument explained that it’s not really Christmas in July anymore, but everyone was still told to prepare for the worst.
“Our bosses told us to stay in tonight and everything,” she said. But so far it’s been quieter than usual for a Saturday.
At 7:30 p.m. the bar counter at the Put-in-Bay Brewery and Distillery is mostly empty. It might get busier once people leave the hotel pools around 9:00 or 10:00, the bartender explained. That’s what normally happens over the weekend. People are getting drunk, of course, and, legal or not, the smell of pot wafts through the streets. But no one is wearing any Santa apparel or holiday colors. Nobody seems to need the faux holiday as an excuse for intoxication.
A couple days later, the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce released a self-congratulatory statement. “This year, the historically busy weekend went off without a hitch due to extensive planning and preparations by the Safe Island Task Force and Chamber of Commerce.”
Apparently Christmas doesn’t come to the island in July anymore.
Featured Image: Christmas in July on Put-in-Bay, Photo by Lorraine Boissoneault