It's the calm before the crowds and security guard Rhett Rasmussen has been sitting under a tree at the entrance to the Pelican parking lot since 7 a.m. His job is to make sure Pier employees park in the grass so there's plenty of room for the throngs of visitors expected in these final days.
Dave Nelson is also an early bird. He is armed with a Nikon camera to capture the St. Petersburg icon.
"I'm going to look at it for the last time and take a few pictures and send them back to my friends in Michigan," said Nelson, who lives in Riverview and has just gotten off work from MacDill Air Force Base, where he works in cyber defense.
Someone else has already beaten him to a choice spot close to the entrance in the middle lane of the Pier approach.