Get ready to get soaked because the Tybee Beach Bum Parade is back on Friday, May 20. After a two-year hiatus due to covid, this treasured Tybee tradition is finally happening again, and this year’s parade is expected to be bigger, better, and wetter than ever before.
The parade first got its start 35 years ago in the spring of ’87 by Tybee’s amateur baseball league the Desoto Beach Bums, hence the namesake. In celebration of their homecoming game, the community came together to throw a homecoming parade. Parade founder Jack Boylston, better known as ‘Tybee Jack’ recalls the story: “Everybody started calling around, and we gathered out in front of where Fannie’s on the Beach is now in the Strand parking lot on a Friday afternoon. We had a bunch of people with their pots and pans, a kazoo band, a gentleman who was a PE teacher but also knew how to walk on stilts. He had an Uncle Sam outfit and he wore that. So it was just a big party.”
The water came into play the following year once the parade was better organized. “All the Bums got in the back of this garbage truck. . . and we were going to ride in it, and just as we went down Tybrisa street, there were a bunch of guys standing in front of the novelty bar. They had a five gallon bucket, which we didn’t think anything about and all of a sudden we went by, they started throwing water balloons at us. And so we said, we were going to retaliate next year. And that’s how the water got started,” Boylston explained.
From that humble beginning, the Tybee Beach Bum parade has grown into a major celebration of island life and love for the local community. “We call it last locals weekend before Memorial Day weekend starts and all the tourists are coming down,” he said. You won’t find any water balloons at the Beach Bum Parade now, as they were deemed unsafe. But what you will find is parade participants and bystanders having an ultimate water fight using water guns of every variety.
Before the parade there’s a coronation where the crowning of the parade’s Grand Marshall, the Queen and the Big Kahuna take place. This year, the coronation will take place on Wed., May 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the American Legion on 10 Veterans Dr. This year’s Grand Marshall is Jay Altman. The Big Kahuna is Rudy Rudon, and the Queen will be Amorette Zittrauer, who’s been enjoying island life for the past 62 years.
On the 20th, the parade will start promptly at 6:30 parade beginning at North Beach. The parade route goes all the way to Tybrisa St. People should look forward to a fun, family-friendly affair where everyone gets soaked. “[Everyone] can expect a lot of laughter and adults reliving their childhood days in a water gun fight. Children enjoy getting wet and wetting other people. . . No one else has anything like it. It started out as a joke and look what it’s done now, 35 years later,” Boylston laughed.
“The parade is Tybee. It’s homegrown and it’ll stay homegrown,” he said. Funds generated from the parade go back into the community. “We’re a small band of folks that care about Tybee, and this is a Tybee tradition,” he added. If you’re interested in registering a float at the Beach Bum Parade, click here. For more information, visit www.tybeebeachbumparade.com. See you there!