An annual unofficial boating party on Lake St. Claire in Michigan is still going on, despite signs the previously improving state is facing a potential uptick in COVID-19 cases. It seems for the first time in decades, STIs and sunburn aren’t the biggest health threats to the average Jobbie Nooner partier.
Known as the Mardi Gras of the Midwest (so like normal Mardi Gras, but a lot whiter and the risk of drowning) Jobbie Nooner was started by UAW worker Lee O’Dell in the mid-1970s. The party spread via word-of-mouth into the monster gathering it is today which can reach up to 10,000 boats and 100,000 people.
Just check out last year’s madness, from Local 4 WDIV:
The focal point of their merriment is an uninhabited manmade pile of dregs called Gull Island. Party goers attach their boats together to form long bridges or park in the shallows of the island. Drinking to the extreme features prominently. The huge crowds, alcohol and the unpredictability of Michigan’s unofficial Great Lake can make for disastrous consequences, however. Last year, what was predicted to be a beautiful day with record crowds turned suddenly into stormy weather, sending 20 people to the hospital.
This year, partiers are waiting for the final ok from local authorities, but it seems the party will go off no matter what, though with some new rules which will totally be enforced, I’m sure. From the Detroit News.
Fans of the event request that participants cooperate with law enforcement, remaining on their boats and staying six feet from other boats. It won’t quite be like jumping on the island, but fans said they’ll still be able to enjoy the sights of boats and bikinis from a distance.
“If you go out, be an adult, and have fun,” the Jobbie Crew said on their website. “Odds are Jobbie Nooner and Raft-Off will continue whether there’s a pandemic or not.”
Raft-Off is an even bigger event, if you can believe it. Neither Raft-Off, nor Jobbie Nooner are any kind of “official” event and there aren’t really any organizers. It’s simply an annual tradition started by autoworkers looking to beat the heat. While it is heavily policed, there is no way to keep total control on such a raucous crowd so rule enforce proves difficult. Drinking and boating, for instance, are against the law in Michigan, but ticketing so many for the infraction would be impossible.
Add to this mess the fact that Michigan suburbanites (especially in conservative Macomb County, where Jobbie Nooner takes place) are incredibly ready to toss COVID rules out the window, to the point they’ll shutdown the capitol (and eventually storm into the state house with weapons) to demand the right to risk hourly workers lives so they can get a haircut.
But these rules they are so eager to toss are the reason Michigan went from one of the hottest spots for COVID case to one of only two state seeing steep declines in cases just a few weeks ago. There has been a worrying uptick recently in Michigan, indicating that the state may be relaxing restrictions too early. Wednesday saw the highest rise in COVID cases in Michigan since mid-May, according to WDIV. That slight up tick could mean another surge in infections.
But that’s all fine I’m sure! Honestly, if everyone can stay on their own boats and avoid putting someone drunk at the helm, then more power to them. Being out on the water is a blast and there is a way to do it safely, even if walking across the boats is a big part of the tradition. But if I’ve learned anything during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s not to trust my fellow Michiganders to do the right thing.