The fireworks were booming in the sky, and so was the tourism on the ground.
Despite rain, Port Aransas saw one of its biggest crowds in recent memory during the July 4 weekend. It was a boon for island businesses, but cramped at times on city streets.
Zach Hamilton experienced it. Bartending for a swarm of customers at Seafood & Spaghetti Works, he said the weekend likely was the biggest in at least a year.
"It was real busy," said Hamilton, who has worked at the restaurant nearly 10 years. "The rain drove everyone off the beach."
One look at the ferry lines, and you knew Port Aransas was having a monster weekend. Ferry deckhand Atanacio Martinez was out in the thick of it, directing hundreds of cars onto and off of the ferries.
"You see a lot of faces out there," said Martinez, a Taft resident who has worked as a ferry deckhand for more than 10 years. "Some angry faces, some happy. All kinds of people."
A total of 34,374 vehicles rode the ferries from Thursday, July 3, to Sunday, July 7, according to Howard Gillespie, the ferry operations manager. Broken down, that was 8,568 vehicles on Thursday; 9,100 Friday; 9,251 Saturday; and 7,455 Sunday.
About 4,000 to 6,000 vehicles make the crossing on ordinary summer days, Gillespie said. Some 6,696 vehicles rode the ferries on Saturday, May 31. That's a normal number for a summer weekend day, he said.
Even though all six ferries were running during the July 4 weekend, lines of traffic at times stretched from the ferry landing down Cotter Street to Station Street; and down Cut-off Road and even extending along Avenue G to the beach.
Police officers stood, directing traffic, not only at the intersection of Cotter and Cut-off, but also at Alister and Avenue G, said Port Aransas Police Chief Sam Russell. Traffic was backed up down State Hwy. 361 to the post office, he said.
Police reported one major accident. Joseph Whitney "T-Joe" Miguez Jr., a 48-year-old mate who works aboard the Island Queen, suffered head injuries when the scooter he was driving crashed into the back of a truck in the 200 block of North Alister Street just after midnight Saturday, police said. (See related story on Page 3B.)
Police also spent some time trying to locate two lost children on the beach Saturday. Both children - a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old, in separate incidents - were found OK by police within an hour after officers got reports from relatives they were missing, Russell said.
The children "were just out wandering around," Russell said.
Business at the Family Center IGA was up "significantly" from last year's July 4 period, according to coowner and store director Mike Hall.
It rained more heavily during last year's July 4 holiday, Hall pointed out. July 4 falling on a Friday this year and the coinciding 73rd annual Deep Sea Roundup fishing tournament July 3-6 combined to bring many more folks to town, he said.
In the days leading up to the July 4 weekend this year, the potential for rain spooked some folks, but it didn't bother others, said Clay Coffield, property manager at the Alister Square Inn.
"When people would cancel, that cancellation would be replaced by someone calling for a reservation within minutes," Coffield said. "I'm not kidding. Just two or three minutes would go by."
The Coast Club experienced its busiest weekend since it opened on State Hwy. 361 in May last year, according to Mason Hogue, the club's general manager. Extra help was summoned. Three bartenders were working at a time during peak times. Ashley Harris was one of them.
"It was very big," Harris said. "You just hustle. You go in there knowing that it's fixing to rock and roll, and you don't think about … taking a break."