Jeep Weekend

A line of jeeps and other automobiles drive down the beach in Bolivar while people prepare for Jeep Weekend on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. County officials are talking about how they manage the large event after scores of arrests and numerous vehicle crashes over the weekend.


The county plans to change the way it handles an annual event on Bolivar Peninsula after a wild weekend led to scores of arrests and even more complaints about bad behavior, officials said Monday.

Deputies arrested 125 people on the peninsula and responded to about 600 calls for service from Thursday to Sunday, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

Most of the arrests were related to Jeep Weekend, the unofficial title of a loosely organized beach party held on the peninsula for the past 12 years.

The arrests, dozens of auto accidents, including some causing major injuries, traffic gridlock on state Highway 87, general rowdy behavior and fights have some people calling for a ban on the event.

The busy weekend was not the result of a single large event, but of multiple small ones, officials said. Jeep Weekend, also known as Go Topless Weekend, is a nationwide event promoted by the Jeep brand that started as a meet-up for jeep enthusiasts.

The meet-up event on Bolivar has grown in size in recent years and draws people who are not strictly Jeep owners. In addition to the Jeep gathering, there were at least two other events being advertised on Facebook, one called “MAGA Beach Bash 2019” and another called “Rednecks with Paychecks.”

Still, most of the ire has been directed at what’s seen as the largest event.

More than 14,000 people had signed an online petition for the end of “Go Topless Weekend” on the website by Monday afternoon. Other online chatter has called for the county to ban Jeeps from Bolivar beaches, or to prohibit alcohol or to charge visitors to the event a premium to use the beach.

Commissioners Darrell Apffel, whose precinct includes Bolivar Peninsula, said he had fielded calls about the event and was working on proposals that would address some of the issues.

Those proposals don’t involve closing or banning people from beaches, Apffel said.

Rather, he said he would propose increasing the sheriff’s budget to pay for more overtime for deputies to work the event.

“The only thing we can do is more funding for more officers and emergency services, and to come up with a better mobility plan to keep the people moving,” he said.

The sheriff’s office had as many as 50 deputies on the peninsula over the weekend, Trochesset said. His count included deputies who worked the Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry and at the county’s sub-station and holding facility at Crystal Beach, he said.

Trochesset also asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to send state troopers to help patrol the beach, but he didn’t know Monday exactly how many troopers went or how long they stayed.

The sheriff’s office is still reviewing its performance over the weekend, he said.

“We review every major weekend to make sure that we’re staffed as best as we can, with the number of employees that we have and the amount of equipment that we have, that’s not going to change,” Trochesset said.

Apffel also wanted the county to explore the possibility of limiting beach access points during the event so traffic could move in only one direction during the weekend.

Doing so would be complicated because state beach access laws require Texas General Land Office approval for the county to preemptively close beaches.

“We can’t close beaches, we can’t close access points,” Apffel said. “The beaches are open to everyone. We cannot close access points alone. But we are going to have to do something next year.”

The land office was aware of complaints about the weekend and was working with the county, spokeswoman Karina Erickson said.

“The GLO has spoken with the county and are discussing how access to the beach can best be managed to protect public safety, in addition to mitigating the environmental impacts associated with large events such as these,” Erickson said.

The county does have the ability to restrict access and direction of travel during public emergencies, she said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

(14) comments

Cindy Acosta

The last line gives us "part" of the answer to solve this issue. The county does have ability to restrict access for public safety during an emergency. The county officials and especially the Sheriff should be aware with a group this size and out of control as they were "we are just one bad decision away from a mass casualty event, which will make national news" It may be hard to make a plan and take action now for the future, but it is a lot harder to explain why you did not do it after being warned and knowing what will eventually occur. Hope everyone has a great day!

Bailey Jones

If my recollection is correct, we didn't have these problems last year. Why is this year different?

Don Schlessinger

Social media.

AJ LeBlanc

I think I’ll go with “ bad behavior”.

Tamala Robinson

bad behavior or thugs tearing up the island?

City Manager

None of this occurred on the island or inside Galveston City Limits.

Tamala Robinson

Most of those thugs with their MAGA flags at the topless event still made a heck of a mess, fought, trashed property and caused major accidents!! Lets not play on words outside the city limit of Galveston but still Galveston County and is a part of the island with the beach and waterfront property. My nephew was hit in his car by a drunk driver from that event that ran a stop sign and his car was totaled. His hand and fingers are mangled and his body is bruised with skin missing.. Kind of reminds me of KAPPA weekend but much worse on a smaller scale. By the way, Galveston officials stopped KAPPA weekend. The same can be done for this event. We all know we don't want THUGS causing accidents, fighting and trashing property.

Rusty Schroeder

What event are you talking about that your nephews car was totaled and his hand and fingers mangled ? Got any proof ? I remember you from La Marque posts years back, sounds like you haven't missed a beat. Nice MAGA reference, and KAPPA was a bunch of trashy thugs urinating, defecating, and stealing from area business. That's what I remember.

Tamala Robinson

Might I add that Galveston Sheriff's department/police were utilized for this event. Taxpayers.

Kelly Naschke

Tamala...islands are surrounded by water...peninsulas are surrounded by water in 3 sides and link to a landmass. Bolivar is not an Island. I would also like to know how Galveston stopped Kappa weekend. My recollection is that that event wore itself out. It also really bothers me that this is referred to as Jeep Weekend. The connotation of Go Topless was a reference to taking the top off your Jeep and hanging out with other like minded jeepers. The connotation NOW is totally different and references something totally disgusting. The under 25 crowd ruined it for the jeepers. There are several videos on YouTube that shows the Jeeps are outnumbered by about 10-1 by sxs’s, lifted trucks, and other vehicles. The Jeep club that I belong to bailed on CB when the trash started showing up several years ago. There were somewhere between 300-400 jeeps at the San Luis Pass this past weekend. Check the police logs ...,,not ONE arrest. It was a well behaved family oriented crowd that grandparents and grandkids could, and did participate in. That crap show in CB was a filthy disgusting display of idiocy.

Matthew Dan

The culture has changed with today's teen age kids. The old days of drinking and having fun has changed to extreme behavior that's increased by alcohol. The fights and drinking are part of the entertainment and reason people go to certain events. Today's kids have no respect for laws or law enforcement.

Robert Waggoner

Evidently you were either not old enough to remember or just not aware of what it was like in Galveston in the early 60's with "May Day" on the beaches in Galveston. The culture didn't change, law enforcement made it change along with what the city saw this event becoming.

Carlos Ponce

I don't recall "May Day" but I do remember "Splash Day" in the late fifties and early sixties.
"Five Major Accidents Mar Splash Days Opening"
The Galveston News, May 3, 1959
"They called it Splash Day back then.
It was a time of bathing beauties, diving competitions, parades, a regatta, and, unfortunately, a riot.
You might remember those days. Heck, you probably went to it!
But the fun didn’t start in the 1950s. It goes further back than that.
Some sources say it started in 1911. By the 1920s, Galveston was hosting the Annual Bathing Girl Revue, which soon morphed into the International Pageant of Pulchritude. The winner was named Miss Universe."
"The fun resumed after WWII and thousands would flock to the island in seemingly greater numbers each year. In 1959, an estimated 100,000 turned out. The following year, Larry Kane hosted a teen dance followed by a performance from Fats Domino on the Pleasure Pier.
But in 1961, things changed. That year, hundreds were arrested in nighttime rioting that broke out along parts of the city. About 250 officers were called in from around the area, including Houston. No one was seriously injured."

Robert Waggoner

Thanks for the correction. Got my Days wrong. Meant Splash Day.

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