The Saturday morning beach sweep on Georgia-Florida weekend is like a kindergarten Easter egg hunt: You’re guaranteed to find something. But unlike Easter eggs, you may not want to pick it up, at least not bare-fingered.
On the Friday before the Georgia-Florida game, thousands of students and other fans — of UGA and adult beverages — gather in a loud wad at the Coast Guard station beach access to drink and drop stuff in the sand. Maybe the latter isn’t their intent, but if you apply yourself to the drinking, it happens.
Saturday’s was the 11th annual pickup of refuse left on the beach, in the bushes and dunes and at walkways from three points of the compass. You assume nobody emerges from the ocean to the east, but you never know.
It’s organized by Keep Brunswick-Golden Isles Beautiful, of which Lea King-Badyna is the executive director. She started the day in the 7:30 a.m. darkness by the light of a couple of small lanterns with a brick and a rock holding down her paperwork in a brisk, chill wind. Before it was over, she had over 100 volunteers who worked all 41 beach access points.
Vicki Moore, an eight-year-resident, said she came because she loves the island she first visited as an infant 63 years ago.
With plenty of people on the beach, Moore took on the task of picking up bottle caps and other trash around the lines of portable toilets.
Oddly, a plastic gallon jug, painted Pepto pink, sat untouched in front of a toilet. Moore uncapped it and poured out the grape purple contents and put it in a recycle bin.
Gary Nikoukary was at the bins separating the things he had found on the East Beach Causeway. He, too, had found a jug. It was empty but covered with Sharpie writing including a list of five numbers to call “if lost.” It also had some expletives in place of some adjectives that would have done just as well. It made the jug trash to the fifth power.
“A lot of bottles,’’ Nikoukary said. “Syringes, shoes. I even found a retainer.”
It was a pair of shoes tied together, but one was a Nike running shoe and the other a flip-flop.
“Lots of socks, plenty of items of clothing. I guess they get hot and strip down,’’ Nikoukary said.
He also found a couple of pads intended for bust enhancement.
Driven by unselfish intentions, four teenagers from St. Simons Community Church joined the sweep.
“I’m doing it because I think the community should get together and clean up the trash,’’ Meritt Moody said.
Jackson Wakeland said he hopes it will influence others to do the same, and Bailey Griner said simply, “I just wanted to help my community.”
Colton Myers rhymed, “I believe in unity in the community and a family feel.”
They hadn’t found much interesting, mostly beer cans and cigarette butts, except for Jackson.
“I found fake money, I was excited,’’ he said.
Then he noticed the $5 bill was about the size of Monopoly money so the excitement faded.
Joey Bond, 11, found a cane while her younger brother Jayce found some googly eyes and lots of feathers. Indeed, there were a lot of feather remnants, black, red, yellow, blue. There must have been a theme.
Their mom, Wanda, who had them on the beach in the cold, had come on her bike while the party was going on.
“Guys were yelling, ‘Moms drink for free.’ I kept riding. I wouldn’t dare. I didn’t know what was in those jugs,’’ she said.
Well, by the end of the day most of those jugs were filled with air, and that’s why Bobby Swartzlander and James Fennel have always been successful with their metal detectors.
“I found a couple of earrings, a cellphone, sunglasses, lots of garbage,’’ Swartzlander said.
The cellphone was on, but Swartzlander couldn’t get it to work.
In the past, he’s found rings, medallions, lots of costume jewelry, watches and sometimes a piece of gold.
“After these parties, you find a lot of electronic cigarettes,’’ he said.
Fennel had one gold earring, a campaign-type badge and a key.
He’s had better beach party years.
“I’d find five or six rings,’’ he said. “One year, I found 10 cellphones.”
He recently found an Apple watch at Jacksonville Beach. It still works.
“I found a cellphone for a girl one year. You’d think I’d found everything she’d ever owned,’’ Fennel said.
Ansley Franklin from the Glynn Academy Environmental Club said her dad also found a cellphone. It worked and they called a number on the phone and the owner’s roommate answered.
“We’re going to mail it to them later,’’ Ansley said.
This is one instance email won’t work for a cellphone.
Three Georgia students, Lindsey Smith, Chris Broomhead and Jake Geiger, and two from College of Coastal Georgia, Kelsey Rivers and Gracie Jordan, were sweeping together.
They were together because of Geiger and Rivers who were best friends at North View High School in Jones Creek. They were always together, but now they’re separated by campus geography, and they’ve moved past being best friends.
“We were voted the couple that never was,’’ at North View, Rivers said. “Now we’re dating.”
“Now who’s laughing?” Geiger said.
He wasn’t. He was beaming, and who can blame him. A lot of guys would jump at a chance to get up early on a cold Saturday to pick up trash on the beach with a girl like Rivers. Maybe someday, a guy will be out there with his girlfriend and drop to a knee, pledge his undying love and propose marriage with a ring he found in the sand. And maybe it’ll fit.
As for King-Badyna, she’s grateful for all of them.
“It’s not fun picking up other people’s trash,’’ she said.
Terry Dickson has been a journalist in South Carolina and the Golden Isles for more than 40 years. He is a Glynn County resident. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.