TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) – The 4th of July marks the peak of travel season for Tybee Island, but even after canceling the island’s fireworks show, the city’s manager said they are still anticipating large crowds.
“On the 4th of July, just without fireworks we will have about 50 to 60 thousand people on the island that day,” Shawn Gillen, the City Manager, said.
Tybee Beach Vacation Rentals Managing Partner, Keith Gay, said his rental units are already booked through the 4th of July week and weekend. He mentioned most of his other rental and hotel owner associates are also at capacity or getting close.
“We’re completely booked in the 4th of July week, which is actually a surprise because we thought when they canceled the fireworks that would probably be a deterrent for people coming down,” Gay commented.
City officials and local business owners said they thought having a firework display could minimize the additional 20,000 or so visitors who usually head onto the island just to see the fireworks. Gillen said canceling the show could reduce gridlocked congestion and DUI-related traffic accidents.
City leaders anticipate more people will be setting off their own fireworks this year to make up for the firework displays that have been canceled around the area due to the pandemic.
“I would encourage people to focus on barbecues and spending time with their family and playing on the beach,” Gay recommended.
Cheyenne Anderson, a naturalist who works at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center said firework shows have a significant impact on the wildlife that lives on Tybee Island. She said debris left from the fireworks on the beach and in the ocean can kill and injure the local wildlife—adding a concern for the additional trash left by people visiting the beach.
“Having all of these people here for 4th of July weekend, it’s really hard on the wildlife. All of these dune systems here are really delicate, so there’s a lot of reptiles who live in here and nest, shorebirds. All of these guys who hang out here and then all of this trash flows into there and it really impacts their way of life. We just want to make sure we are being safe and being compassionate towards wildlife and one another,” Anderson said.
It is sea turtle nesting season on Tybee Island until around October. Anderson said light caused by fireworks can disorient the sea turtles who are trying to get to the ocean—causing them to head towards the light and away from the water.
Mayor Shirley Sessions gave WSAV the following statement:
“Although there will be no fireworks this 4th of July on Tybee, we do anticipate high volumes of summer beach goers celebrating our country’s Independence Day! Parking is limited, plan to arrive early, use the Tybee parking app, and avoid sitting in long lines of traffic by leaving early. Be mindful of the strong rip tides, swim in the ocean with caution and look out for others. Alert a life guard if you see anyone in distress. Tybee is everyone’s beach, so please leave only your footprints, and dispose of all trash appropriately. Be mindful of staying off the sensitive sand dunes, which are there to protect the island and keep visitors safe from storm surges and beach erosion. Read and respect the beach rules, they’re there for your safety. Thank you for not smoking and vaping, but if you do, dispose of butts and vape plastic/glass mouth pieces properly and remember no smoking is allowed from 14th – 16th street. To protect yourself and others, it’s recommended and encouraged by Gov. [Brian] Kemp, [the] CDC, Chatham County Health Department and Tybee officials to wear masks whenever appropriate and possible. Happy 4th!”
Gillen said the city will have additional code enforcers, police officers, firefighters, and lifeguards on duty.