TRAVERSE CITY — The bad behavior escalated quickly after Jerek Gutierrez and Katie Willis left West End Beach.
Gutierrez and Willis, both of Traverse City, soaked up some July 4 sun and packed up early that afternoon. They were surprised to learn that a booze-fueled crowd trashed the beach that evening in more ways than one.
Beer bottles and cans littered the sand with piles of other refuse. Some revelers left a makeshift, plywood beer pong table decorated with their signatures. Gutierrez and Willis saw some drinking, but didn't peg the crowd as out-of-control.
"There were a decent amount of people, but they were not rowdy," Gutierrez said.
Others witnessed ample bad behavior, and Traverse City police hope to avoid another drunken mess as the National Cherry Festival comes to a close. Capt. Jeff O'Brien said officers will step up patrols Saturday and Sunday, especially near West End Beach.
They may get some help from the weather. The local forecast calls for the possibility of rain and thunderstorms Saturday. Post-July 4 cool temperatures certainly chilled an initial hot streak of complaints to authorities — 225 in three days — that peaked during the July 4 holiday weekend.
Once cooler temperatures moved in, even the Cherry Festival's venerable beer tent closed some mid-week evenings with just a handful of patrons on tap.
"Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday has been really kind of slow," O'Brien said. "Crowds were really down on Monday and Tuesday."
O'Brien said police handled more alcohol-related incidents than usual this week. He said most were "run-of-the-mill," but two involved minors and raised concerns.
On July 4, authorities transported two juveniles who suffered from alcohol poisoning to Munson Medical Center. O'Brien said the incident took place near the volleyball courts at West End Beach, where alcohol consumption from cans is allowed and where police made four arrests over the holiday weekend.