EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Despite COVID-19 cases ramping up here in the Tri-County area a yearly river party went on Saturday.
Around 200 boats filled with people showed up for the 10th annual White Trash Bash. While law enforcement officers were concerned about the spread of COVID-19, they say there’s not much they can do.
Perfect temperatures and perfect river levels meant a big turnout for the annual White Trash Bash. Around 500 people gathered in an alcove along the Illinois River. Director of Fon Du Lac Park District Mike Johnson said he expected a large crowd.
“We encourage them to practice social distancing,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how likely that’s going to be in this environment.”
The event has been held every summer for the past 10 years but hasn’t always had a law enforcement presence. Johnson said they started to monitor the event a few years ago.
“This isn’t a sanctioned event. We started having law enforcement present about five years ago because we will get a lot of fights on the beach,” Johnson said. “It’s the perfect element for a problem, you’ve got beautiful weather, a lot of alcohol and anywhere from 600-1000 people.”
The all-day party consists of drinking, socializing and partying as a large group. Daniel Murphy was ready to get the party started.
“I’m just ready to tear it down,” Murphy said.
This was Murphy’s first ever event and said he and his friends are ready to have a good time with each other and hundreds of others.
“I thought we were going fishing, but I guess we’re going there,” Murphy said. “It’s going be a good time hanging with friends, having a good time.”
While WMBD rode exclusively with Fon Du Lac Park Police, no one at the event was seen wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Johnson said it’s concerning, but said there isn’t much his officers can do.
“Marine law enforcement is very limited in the tri-county area, it’s our agency and the conservation police, so we do the best we can with the man power we have and we try to have people voluntarily social distance, but at the end of the day, the goal is to get through this event and get everyone home safe,” Johnson said.
Murphy and his friends say they aren’t concerned about potentially catching the virus in the large group of people.
“Definitely not,” Murphy said. “Not at all.”
Fon Du Lac Park Police also want people to know not everyone with boats along the Illinois River take part in the bash and the biggest thing in boating is being courteous of other boaters.