Today I had to stop by Pete’s Bar in Neptune Beach for their annual Thanksgiving Day “c0cktail party”. It starts at 10:00am and the crowds pour into the street, partying and drinking, and toasting the holiday (for those of us who are released from kitchen duty) under a lovely Florida sun with temps in the upper 60s.
This year, Neptune Beach closed off one block entirely for four hours so people could spill out of the bar, onto the sidewalk and into the street. People were milling about, hugging it out with friends – old and new – the way only people who’ve been…celebrating for a while can do.
It was like partying at a beer tent, back when we lived in Michigan (do they have beer tents in the south or is it a regional thing?). I’ve lived at the beach for ten years now and today was my first Thanksgiving Day at Pete’s.
A bit about Pete’s Bar. Established in 1933, it’s one of these beloved, neighborhood hole-in-the-wall bars, with a dark interior, several pool tables, a long bar with many tables, and smoking. It’s been featured in a John Grisham novel, and is one of many bars in the town center area of Atlantic and Neptune Beaches. But Pete’s is a bar’s bar; like the place I met my husband, The Post bar in Detroit, Michigan. It’s your basic, neighborhood joint where generations of beaches residents have to come to celebrate life’s moments, and probably cry about them too; to pick up guys or girls, or maybe just pass the time.
The Thanksgiving cocktail party tradition started over 20 years ago, when an employee volunteered to work for the owner who lived upstairs, so she could spend Thanksgiving with her family. People would stop in to keep him company, and over the years it just evolved into this Thanksgiving tradition, with Bloody Marys at 10am, beer and drinks, too; finally it became a big ole good time, a street party on Thanksgiving day. By the time we arrived today, the crowd was in high spirits and it was time for us to crack a beer.
At 2:00, the Neptune Beach law enforcement rolled in to clear the street to good-natured cheers and jeers, all in good fun.
(When the officer arrived to inform the crowd that the outside party was over for this Thanksgiving.)
After that, people either went home to continue with their personal Thanksgivings, or retreated inside the bar, to continue toasting, hollering, shooting pool, or hanging with friends.
And that’s how Thanksgiving is done at Pete’s.
(part two of the Palin book tour is coming.)
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Jeannie Greenwald is a blogger, neighborhoods / 'go local' evangelist, hobbyist photographer, and degreed psychologist.