Is this really New Year’s on Siesta Beach?

Crowd and the weather reminiscent of a big summer holiday

Harriet Cuthbert. Contributed photo

It cannot possibly be Jan. 1 on Siesta Beach — not with the air temperature around 80, water temperature close to 70 and a perfectly cloudless, azure sky kissed by that beautiful yellow ball of sun.

Judging from the size of the crowd, the total lack of sand space and the variety of music blaring everywhere, it most definitely has to be a different huge holiday — July Fourth. There are multi-generational families, soccer players showing off their bronze bodies, kids playing ball in any space they can find — all seemingly speaking foreign languages. From my college days as a language student, I recognize French, Spanish and Russian. Yes, the world has discovered our beach.

The Swedes stand out — so to speak — because they can communicate in perfect English and they have perfect bodies and, basically, very few tattoos.

The UK visitors apparently love to bake away, turning their fair skin to a perfect shade of red. Somehow, that must be their badge of honor.

I love watching the babies take their first hesitant steps in the sand, clinging to Mom and Dad and then being slowly dipped into the water. Some giggle and just want more, while others start crying and just want to be picked up and put safely back into Daddy’s arms. (Even small waves can be terrifying.)

And then I see a service dog — the first time I had ever spotted one on Siesta Beach. Just about everyone nearby turns around to watch the owner escort this beautiful animal into the water and to see how much the animal enjoys it. I do not recognize the breed, but he is a black-and-white, long-haired dog who looks so sweet and gentle; you can tell how much he enjoys his “job” of taking care of his owner. I wave to them as they wander off toward Crescent Beach.

It is time for my swim. The yellow flag is up today, signifying high surf and rip currents, but that does not deter me at all. The only thing that scares me is jellyfish, with their potential sting. I always feel as if they are just lurking in the water, waiting to pounce.

I am having a hard time navigating over to the Gulf without stepping on towels, cellphones and people’s feet. It just has to be July Fourth.

Well, Happy New Year anyway — and remember to wear your sun block.