ST. PETE BEACH — The prospect of tens of thousands of social media-driven visitors descending on the city's beaches next weekend has city officials scrambling to ensure police protection and emergency services for the unsanctioned float party.
Last month an estimated 100,000 Floatopia beachgoers left Miami Beach full of trash. An angry City Council promptly drafted rules to regulate future such events.
St. Pete Beach has no special rules in place, except a requirement that any gathering of 200 people or more must apply for a permit.
No such permit has been issued for the float party, and its organizer says he has no intention of doing so.
Forgiato Blow, a self-described "national recording artist" whose real name is Kurt Jantz, is calling on his fan base to join him May 22 on the public beach near the Loews Don CeSar Hotel, where he has reserved a room and hopes to meet his fans.
The blue-bearded and blue-haired rapper's Blue Wave Float Party has already generated more than 100,000 views on Facebook and Twitter with hundreds of people pledging to come.
Mayor Maria Lowe learned of the planned party this week and is working with Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri to schedule extra deputies to patrol the beaches and streets during the event. She is also trying to line up extra fire and emergency responders.
The city is also planning to provide extra trash receptacles and trash pickups to keep the beach clean.
The city doesn't know yet how much all this will cost. It spent $5,000 last year just for extra law enforcement for the Fourth of July.
Lowe said volunteers from Eckerd College may be present as well, sitting near nesting black skimmers to protect their nests from beachgoers.
She is also concerned about where people will park, since there is virtually no public parking near the Don CeSar. Then there is the lack of public bathroom facilities — the closest is at the city's pavilion at Pass-a-Grille beach, a long hike away.
Jeff Abbacchio, public relations director for the Don CeSar, says he hopes that whoever comes to the beach has a "wonderful experience." The hotel does not plan to put on any extra security staff.
Lowe posted a long letter on Blow's Facebook page, unsuccessfully asking him to reconsider holding the event. So did a number of residents.
"Forgiato Blow you are misleading your friends … the way you are organizing this could go badly for everyone," wrote resident Michael Lehman.
"As residents we are concerned it is going to be crazy and our beach and the place we call home will be trashed," wrote Laura Travison.
Blow, 31, freely admits the float party is a marketing effort that he hopes will boost his career as a rap artist.
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"I'm just trying to build a brand name with people. What I am doing is not wrong. It's not illegal," he said. "It is a public beach. They can't stop us."
He wants his fans to bring their floats, but not drugs or alcohol.
"Everybody is so worried about the bad side, but people can have fun and not dirty the beach," he said.
Blow said he is a lifelong St. Pete Beach resident, an Admiral Farragut graduate, and grandson of Auto Trader founder Stuart Arnold.
His latest musical releases are featured on his Forever Blue mixtape online. Blow says he has also performed a single with Paul Wall, and an MTV music video featuring Lil Durk, both rappers.
As for his unusual name, he says it was taken from a California-based custom wheel and rim manufacturer and stands for "Been Living On Wealth."
"I am just trying to support the city and the city should support the younger generation," he said.