STUART, Fla. -- Thousands of people packed into downtown Stuart to celebrate the 4th of July, despite worries that polluted, potentially toxic water would keep people away from celebrating on the waterfront.
But, if you ask people who have been celebrating in downtown Stuart for years, they’ll tell you the crowd was noticeably smaller than it was in previous years.
“Even on just an average weekend, there would be more people than this. This is just a regular season weekend,” said Fred Newport, captain of the Schooner Lily.
His sailboat stayed tied up to the dock on the St. Lucie River along downtown Stuart. Typically, he would be sailing with dozens of people.
“Usually, we would do two or three trips with about 25 to 30 people on each trip for the 4-day weekend,” Newport said.
He isn’t risking putting anyone in potentially toxic conditions.
“It’s a big loss at the end of the season, but we’re hoping to regroup next season.”
Boaters at Sandsprit Park say the water was nearly empty compared to years when the water looked clean during the 4th of July weekend.
“We did not even touch the water. It was really scary,” said boater Renee Glowth.
Dozens of boats could be seen cruising along the waterway, but no one was in the water.
The Stuart Sandbar, which would typically be packed with hundreds of people on a holiday weekend, was empty.
“There’s two boats on the entire sandbar. Sad,” Glowth said.
It puts an end to her tradition of watching the fireworks on the water.
“I think we’ll just watch from the corner of our street.”