A 656-foot cargo ship sat pitifully on its side in the middle of the St. Simons Sound, where it’s laid for months.
And that wasn’t the biggest spectacle on St. Simons this weekend.
Further along the island’s beach, thousands flocked Friday to the annual day-long party known as “Frat Beach,” which attracts University of Georgia students the day before the college’s rivalry game against the University of Florida.
The students, in town for their fall break, spent the beautiful day on East Beach, enjoying each other’s company in a massive crowd that was most dense near the Coast Guard Station beach entrance but spilled down the ocean line toward Massengale Park.
Many Frat Beach attendees wore costumes and other creative outfits. Music speakers played loudly and added to the general dull roar emanating from the crowd and audible before the event came into sight.
On the outskirts of the crowd, some community members and other groups lounged in chairs and watched the festivities from afar.
But in the midst of the action were numerous law enforcement officials, county workers and volunteers, all aiming to keep the beach as safe and clean as possible.
“This is Glynn County’s beach, and we want to make sure that it’s protected, that our environment’s protected and that our aquatic life is protected,” said county manager Alan Ours, who could be easily spotted Friday afternoon in the beach’s crowd picking up trash. “It takes a big Glynn County team to be out here in full force.”
Law enforcement and local agencies that were onsite Friday to keep the event safe included Glynn County Police, the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Natural Resources, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Emergency Management Agency, the Glynn County Fire Department, Public Works and other county administrators. The Southeast Georgia Health System set up a tent at the beach to handle medical needs.
Keep Golden Isles Beautiful coordinated nearly 40 volunteers to come out in two shifts during the day and pick up trash on East Beach. More volunteers began cleaning up the parking lots at 5 p.m., said Lea King-Badyna, executive director of KGIB.
“Many hands make light work, and we can keep up with it in real time throughout the day,” King-Badyna said Friday afternoon, standing near the KGIB volunteer tent at the edge of the crowd.
Volunteers will return today at 7:30 a.m. for the annual Beach Sweep, picking up any additional trash left behind.
More than 10 student members of UGA’s Ocean Initiative club returned for the second consecutive year to assist local volunteers in picking up the Frat Beach crowd’s trash.
“The atmosphere is crazy, but it’s really fun. And obviously, you try to do the most you can just to try to keep stuff out of the ocean,” said John Kolb, a senior at UGA and co-president of the student group. “… Especially with plastic, just putting it into a landfill, it goes a long way towards keeping microplastics out of the ocean.”
Other community members and groups took time Friday to make sure Frat Beach participants stayed hydrated and fed.
One group set up a tent with sandwiches, snacks and water, and local episcopal churches came together to have about 4,000 bottles of water available to give out for free.
Law enforcement officials began a push at about 5 p.m., driving a line of motor graders forward to collect trash and shepherd the crowd toward the beach’s exit.
“We’re trying to capture the trash before it gets out into the water,” said Glynn County Police Chief John Powell.
Public safety and litter prevention were the county’s top goals, Ours said, so the beach will remain the same once the visitors return home.
“They’ll leave after today, but our beach will still be here,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s kept pristine.”
And the Golden Ray will be able to return to being the strangest local sight.