Large crowds strolled, biked and danced their way up and down Miami Beach Saturday as they celebrated Memorial Day weekend and Urban Beach Week.
The annual gathering, which includes dozens of parties at clubs across Miami Beach and the Best of the Best reggae concert in Miami on Sunday, drew tens of thousands of tourists, who partied across the city.
Swimsuit-clad tourists and fashion-forward visitors danced outside bars and posed for selfie-stick photos as they made their way up and down the street. Although normally crowded with cars, Ocean Drive was shut down and was among many roadblocks and rerouted streets over the weekend.
Visitors like Priya Deonarain from Albany, N.Y., who arrived Saturday afternoon, said they enjoyed people-watching and seeing the crowds party in the street.
“I’ve seen a lot of booty,” Deonarain said of the crowd, dressed as you would expect for a 90-plus degree day on the beach. “I told my boyfriend he’s not allowed to come down here.”
But along with the revelry was a constant police presence as officers on foot, in cars and on bicycles made their way up and down Collins and Washington Avenues and Ocean Drive. About 500 will be deployed throughout the weekend, including hundreds from other South Florida agencies.
Miami Beach police reported 26 arrests over Friday night and Saturday morning, primarily misdemeanors. Police made 61 arrests during the same time frame in 2014.
Deonarain’s friend Amanda Bisaillon said hotel employees told the women to be safe over the weekend and avoid going too far south on the beach.
“As long as I’m still alive at the end, I’ll call it a good weekend,” Bisaillon joked.
Urban Beach Week has had its issues off and on over the years. They include the fatal shooting of Raymond Herisse by a phalanx of police officers who circled his car and fired more than 100 shots after they said he drove dangerously and erratically through the packed streets . In another well-chronicled incident, Rudy Eugene bit off a portion of Ronald Poppo’s face before being shot dead by Miami police, although that actually happened near the MacArthur Causeway on the mainland.
The event retains its appeal, still drawing vast crowds. Shae Saunders decided to travel from Columbia, S.C., because she and her friends wanted to see what South Beach was like and to check out some of the after-parties during the weekend.
“We’ve never been to a beach either, so it’s a like a first time for everything,” Saunders said.
The appeal of South Florida also prompted Wayne Williams, from Charlottesville, Va., to make the trip. As he sat enjoying a margarita, he said the “Miami lifestyle” was his main motivation for coming down.
His friend Brandon Robinson, who recently moved to Virginia after living in Sunny Isles Beach, said he also wanted to check out some sights outside the beach, like Jackson Soul Food restaurant in Overtown.
“I love the area. It’s eclectic,” Robinson said. “If you’re here or like in Hialeah, it almost feels like you’re not in the states.”