Jobbie Nooner Beach Party on Gull Island in Lake St. Clair

The Mardi Gras of the Midwest

Spring Break beach party
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The annual Jobbie Nooner beach party is a decades-old extravaganza that usually takes place on the Friday before Independence Day weekend on Gull Island in Lake St. Clair, Michigan. What started as a Friday afternoon beach party has morphed into an all-out bacchanalia, often referred to as “the Mardi Gras of the Midwest,” including live music, DJs, wet t-shirt contests, and televised flyovers from local news teams.

The only Midwestern boat party bigger than this one is its partner event, Raft Off, which takes place at nearby Muscamoot Bay (Michiganians love to party on the beach, apparently). The date for Jobbie Nooner 2020 is June 26. 

History & Background

The Jobbie Nooner was created by Lee O’Dell in 1975 to celebrate his co-worker's birthday. The first one was held in Anchor Bay. Jobbies, a nickname for auto factory workers, would often start their shifts as early as 5 or 6 a.m. and leave work at noon on the Friday before the July shutdown of the auto factories, taking a “nooner” to party in their boats. In the early '80s, the celebration shifted to Gull Island, an island created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about 6 miles across the water from Lake St. Clair Metropark. After dredging the shipping channels, the leftover sand and muck was dumped at the site, creating Gull Island.

How to Visit

The only way to get to Gull Island is by boat, although some more intrepid partiers walk from Anchor Bay along the shallow areas of Lake St. Clair. Boaters tie off the island or in the shallow water around it, set up camp, and party all day, through the night. There are no facilities of any kind on the island.

What to Expect

These days, the annual Jobbie Nooner party on Gull Island attracts 10,000 or so people. It even has its own website now, which sells t-shirts and generally promotes the event and its afterparties. This is not a place for kids, as there is usually a lot of nudity and binge drinking.

Event though the festival reportedly rakes in hundreds of thousands of tourism dollars to the local economy every summer, the locals have tried to put a stop to it more than once. One summer, it was being leasing from the Army Corps of Engineers temporarily in an attempt to ban partiers and instead promote a clean-up, but the festivities commenced anyway. In 2015, Harrison Township studied the feasibility of a long-term lease of Gull Island, but the effort fizzled out. 

Needless to say, the event requires ample policing. Although technically still under the management of the Army Corps of Engineers, the festival is supervised by a number of law enforcement groups, including the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Macomb and St. Clair County Sheriff Departments, and the Marine Patrols of the Clay Township and New Baltimore Police Departments. A security camera tower has been installed by the Border Patrol to detect illegal border crossings, along with 11 other cameras along the St. Clair River and the lake. 

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