Paul Giordano puffed on a cigar as he looked down Ocean Drive, eyeing the street where Art Deco facades, the swaying palm trees of Lummus Park and thousands of visitors meet each year in a swirl of heat, hip-hop beats and bikinis for Memorial Day weekend.
The 28-year-old Miami Gardens native has come to South Beach for the holiday weekend before, and he considered this year relatively quiet. The crowds are typically a bit too much for him, but he was enjoying Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a beautiful day now that it stopped raining,” he said a few hours after some showers rolled through the area. “And it’s kind of calm. It’s cool.”
Despite a little break during afternoon rains, crowds still came out to stroll and dance down Ocean Drive during another day of Urban Beach Week. Tourists and locals alike donned stylish swimsuits both on the sand and the pavement. Friends and strangers danced inside and outside bars.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Kiara Hollow and Tia Satterfield, who came from North Carolina, walked down Collins Avenue on their way to Ocean Drive where they had to shoo away a cat-caller. They were able to shake the man, who was listening to music on his phone in one ear as he unsuccessfully tried to strike up a conversation.
On their first trip to South Beach, Holloway, 24, and Satterfield, 17, said they’re loving Miami overall.
“It’s really nice down here. I want to come back,” Holloway said. “It’s not as ratchet as I thought it would be.”
From the law enforcement perspective, arrests were down again Saturday night through Sunday morning. Police made 26 arrests, down from 48 during the same time in 2014.
The weekend marks a significant increase in police presence, rerouted streets and barriers sealing residential neighborhoods off from tourists in Miami Beach. About 500 police from other South Florida agencies have been deployed this weekend, with cops stationed at causeways and along Washington and Collins avenues, as well as Ocean Drive.
Giordano, with a cigar in one hand and a drink in another, said the large number of cops didn’t bother him because he didn’t see police unnecessarily bothering anyone.
“As long as they’re not harassing us,” he said. “I’m not against the police. There are good cops and bad cops. But they’re just trying do to their jobs.”
Meanwhile in the water, a high risk of rip currents kept lifeguards busy.
Miami Beach Ocean Rescue reported 23 rescue operations from Sunday's choppy waters. A total of 42 people were safely pulled from the water.
Amber Smith, 23, came for her second Memorial Day weekend in Miami Beach this year. She and her friends flew in from Cincinnati, Ohio, for the parties and sunshine. They spent Saturday night IVY Nightclub to see one of their hometown heroes DJ Fresh and rap artist Rich Homie Quan perform.
Her only complaints echo the gripes of longtime Miami-Dade residents, like traffic and the challenge of parking a car in Miami Beach.
“People can’t drive, and they honk the horn a lot,” she said.