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Jobbie Nooner boaters say they'll party on despite pandemic

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Revelers for Jobbie Nooner are still planning the day-long boat party on Lake St. Clair at the end of June, despite coronavirus concerns that led to many event cancellations this year.

The 46th annual tradition on and around Gull Island will be kicking off as early as 6 a.m. June 26, those who plan to attend said, although they are waiting to hear from the Coast Guard, St. Clair County and the Macomb County Sheriff's Office, who will have the final say.

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.

More than a hundred pleasure boats anchor in the shallow waters around Gull Island for Jobbie Nooner, the annual boat party on Lake St. Clair.

"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."

The long Raft-Off is an annual event held in Muscamoot Bay on the second Saturday of August.

Jobbie Nooner has been held every June since the mid-1970s. It was created by Lee O'Dell and originally promoted by Billy Fritts.

In past years, the party has attracted more than 10,000 boats and 100,000 people, according to the Macomb County Sheriff's Office. Authorities heavily manned the boat party in past years but did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

Since the early 2000s the event has not had official organizers, but is promoted by a group on social media dubbed the Jobbie Crew.

The Crew is run by longtime boaters like Captain Jim, who would not provide a last name, and said the event goes on "rain or shine and is always a good time."

"I think there will be less people this year, especially with social distancing, but nonetheless, it is a party," Captain Jim told The News on Wednesday. "It's not a sanctioned event and is run by everybody and the people got to decide what they want to do themselves."

A Jobbie Nooner reveler dressed as a mermaid floats in the shallow water surrounding Gull Island.

Jim, who has been attending since the late '80s, said the boating community on Lake St. Clair is a large family.

"You can have a 1974 tri-hull right next to a half a million-dollar yacht and they are drinking and talking like they have been friends for many years," Jim said. "I really respect the fact that most boaters looked out for everyone else out there and will do almost anything to help another boater out."

The crew is also promoting a boat party at Northern Michigan’s Torch Lake on Fourth of July weekend and the eighth annual IslandFest Downriver boat party July 18. The party is held on Woodtick Island in Lake Erie, right on the border of Erie, Michigan, and Toledo.

Michigan confirmed 13 additional deaths Wednesday due to the novel coronavirus, bringing the state's tally to 5,955. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday also confirmed 171 new COVID cases and 13 probable cases, for a cumulative total of 65,182 cases since the virus was first detected in the state in early March.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_