Spring Breakers Hit PCB sans Seventeen Magazine

by March 10, 2011 • 22 comments

According to our friends over at tripsmarter.com, there are roughly two million kids turned loose from colleges nationwide, all in the name of Spring Break and shaking off the past Winter Quarter.

I’m willing to bet that about 500,000 of those kids on break right now can be found in the beer aisle at Wal-Mart on Front Beach Rd.

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Ok, well maybe I’ve inflated that number a bit (the Wal-Mart estimate, not the Tripsmarter.com one) but all it takes is one adventurous jaunt to Wal-Mart at 7:30am on a Saturday to understand where that estimate stemmed from.

Sure, we can look at hotel bookings, or in-bound flights, but personally, the real test of numbers comes from those of us who live here on a day-to-day basis. We’re the ones who have to add an additional 15 minutes to our morning commute due to the surge in traffic and more recently, the surge in accidents from crazed college drivers.

It’s a strange love-hate vibe our community harbors for Spring Breakers. In fact, it’s almost along the lines of a kid-brother, or sister. Sure, the younger sibling may drive you batty, but we’re the only ones who’ve earned the right to talk smack about them. After all, we loan them our town, our beaches, and our homes for a couple of months every year and we do love them, despite how much they annoy us.

Yet, when a national magazine like Seventeen Magazine decides to run a piece on the evils of our town and our young Collegiates, it’s only natural that we would take a few moments to address some of the things the magazine stated.

It’s shocking that a relatively credible magazine like Seventeen, would opt to run such a slanderous piece on Panama City. Especially considering the run of hard luck the Gulf had last year and the extensive campaigns we’ve launched to rectify the negative PR during the Oil Spill.

The article used some pretty bold words to describe our town, referring to Spring Break in Panama City Beach as “disgusting, degrading and dangerous, especially to Women.” Ironically, this is the same Magazine who runs articles offering  “Flirting Tips” or  “How to Attract Men” and a “Fertility Calender” to their demographic predominantly comprised of teenage girls and tweens.

Seventeen Magazine went on to state that Spring Break in Panama City Beach was a “grim reality” filled with trash, drunks and casual sex.  Descriptive words capable of summing up any Frat Party. Hell,  if you want to get really down to it, out-of-control antics like those, are present in every town across the nation.

A large concert in Atlanta suddenly erupts in gunfire, some party in New York lands the kids in the hospital for excessive drinking, and then of course, for some college-age kids, that might just be any random Friday night out in San Francisco.

My point is, that it’s the people that bring the excess, not the location. A more constructive article would have been one that offered tips on enjoying the school break while remaining safe and aware. As opposed to running a piece dismissing Spring Break in PCB.

There’s a level of responsibility that needs to be accepted by those visiting our town. If you want to enjoy Spring Break, don’t make dumb choices.  Don’t drink too much, drink some water, eat some food, use sunblock and don’t make out with weirdos or strangers.

Our Police Department works hard to maintain the safety of everyone who visits or lives in Panama City Beach but it’s up to those visiting to meet us in the middle.

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1 Lori Duncan March 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Good piece Rya…on a delicate subject. I agree, shame on Seventeen (a mainstay of my teen years) for exploiting their views without considering what our beautiful beach town has been through. Yet, every year, no matter what hits us, we bounce back. PCB gets better every year, and the attractions go well beyond a short period when students come to unwind. Shedding the reputation of party town can take years, if ever. But the way I see it, that rep can go on the back burner as more and more positive venues take its place. PCB truly is, the best beach in Florida, hands down!

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2 Mac March 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Seventeen is correct with the statement that PCB is “disgusting, degrading and dangerous, especially to women.” Great publicity for going to an upscale family vacation destination. Right Chamber of Commerce? Until PCB leaders decide to run off the college spring break crowd like Ft. Lauderdale did years ago, the Drug & Drunkfest will continue. A new international airport won’t change that terrible image until leaders recognize that you can’t be a trashy and upscale at the same time. In recent year a lot of positive developments have surfaced like new condos, Pier Park & the new airport. PCB should leverage those positive enhancements to change the image of PCB forever. Seventeen magazine is, unfortunately, on target. It would be interesting to see the crime statistics for the month Spring Breakers invade the area .

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3 Greggt March 11, 2011 at 9:54 am

Mac as far as seeing the crime statistics for the Spring Breakers, as long as our police and city officials continue to look the other way and fail to enforce the laws already on the books, the stats will never tell the true story.
We were in Myrtle Beach when the city finally had their fill, they decided to enforce their open container and under age drinking laws. Within one season they cleaned it up leaving a much better place behind.

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4 Shawn March 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

If you invite a couple of hundred thousand people of ANY demographic to your town for three weeks out of the year you’re going to have issues. Increased arrests, traffic congestion, etc. etc.

This isn’t a problem that would be exclusive to college students. After all, these are mostly kids that come from good backgrounds, manage to gain admittance to a university, and acquire the loans necessary to pay for that education.

I understand that the kids scare our older folks. They wear bright colors and talk funny with their slang-a-ma-bob and what not. I get it. You no longer have anything in common with them. It feels like an invasion. It feels dangerous. But, it’s not, really. We do this every year and every year the beaches somehow recover, our homes remain standing, our babies remain innocent, no one is transformed into a pillar of salt. And, guess what, our local business owners gain a much needed infusion of cash after the off season. If Spring Break went away suddenly it’d kill much of the East End of the beach. All that would remain standing would be the chain restaurants and stores of Pier Park.

So, unless we can somehow convince HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of retirees to come here for three weeks in March (I dunno, shuffleboard tournament?) then I suggest we just relax about this one.

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5 Susan March 15, 2011 at 10:28 am

This city will never end spring break. It is how we earn our revenues. No state taxes. One state trooper wrote 110 tickets in one day. Am I worried they will go back and tell their friends that we are not friendly to spring breakers? Absolutely not. Have at it, come down and leave some of your mad money!

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6 Cathy March 15, 2011 at 10:52 am

Rya…. This is a very good piece & I praise you for writing it.
I have a few more I also would love to mention. Seventeen Mag. needs to recognize honestly that “Anytown” USA that Spring Breakers chose to come to would have the same things going on & it would be no more or less disgusting or degrading/dangerous than that of PCB Florida. If they research other areas a little more closely they will surly find areas of trash, drunks & casual sex going on in “any” of these vacation spots, not just singling out PCB as the worse.
I would also love to mention that this in no way has anything to do with the hard luck oil spill or rectifying of such….. that is long past and we should look forward.
If indeed PCB was this bad then Mothers/Fathers would not allow their teens to go there for Spring Break…. it falls on the act of “Responsibility” to all that attend and come down to PCB.
If indeed you “act” responsible then you will have a great memorable time on Spring Break….. if you “act” non-responsible then I’m afraid you will have a terrible time & it to will be memorable, just not as you want to remember it IF you can!
I commend the PCB Police Dept. and all the Security Guards that help keep order and allow the responsible youth a good memorable time.
Seventeen Magazine can certainly be ignored for all I care, next month they will be downing some other vacation spot.
As always… in my own opinion
Cathy/Tennessee

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7 Maureen March 15, 2011 at 11:26 am

I agree with Mac. What I witnessed yesterday in Walmart was enough to convince me that unless the city leaders and the lazy cops get with the program, nothing will change. Writing tickets you say. What about the girls who are wearing thongs in public and miming sexual acts in public. That used to be call ‘lewd and lacivious’ didn’t it. Good homes? Really? Someone please use their cameras to record some of the activity and put it on You Tube. They are doing this stuff in public and cannot expect any amount of privacy. I have a 10 year old grandson. The dress, demeanor and language are almost too much and I come from the hippie generation, so it takes a lot to shock me. The cops are rolling up and down the road citing what? Kids for riding in the back of trucks, drinking? So it’s okay to be absolutely disgusting in public as long as you don’t have a beer or aren’t riding in a vehicle deemed dangerous. Fire the mayor and the police force. They are of no use.

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8 Teresa March 15, 2011 at 11:43 am

I have lived in Panama City, Florida for approximately 27 years and have seen many improvements. However, with regard to Spring Break, I must say, that the young people that visit us are for the most part here to have a good time and they don’t have respect/regard for the people who live and work here. They leave all their trash wherever they might be standing/walking which includes the beach and the roadway. Please TDC, promote families, not underage high school and college students!!! I, for one, would be grateful!

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9 Sharon Ernst March 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I have been to PCB many, many times in my lifetime and brought several cars of young adults with me to your area. I am always absolutely, indredibly amazed at how well your normally small police force handles the overwhelming influx of young people! Yes, some of them are totally unruly, but it’s like anything else….a few bad apples give everyone a bad name….just like Bike Week. Young or old, there are always going to be a few people that push the envelope to the extreme. Some of the problems come from parents who let their kids go on spring break with no supervision at too young an age. I’ve told many parents that let their High Schoolers descend on the beach to think hard before letting them go totally unsupervised….after all kids will be kids, and an adult’s bad decision shouldn’t necessarily be blamed on someone too young to handle such wild freedom so quickly.

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10 jellen March 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

PCB has always had some young spring breakers but I remember when over 30 years ago PCB leaders decided to become the big spring break destination for college kids. Ft. Lauderdale had just announced it no longer wanted that designation and would actively discourage college kids from coming. PCB decided that kind of money might be helpful. The first 2-3 years, PCB actively advertised and even sent buses to northern campuses to transport the kids both ways. That first year was a much different spring break than the year before with huge crowds of drunken, barely covered kids walking into traffic on Thomas Drive and Front Beach Road. We only had The Spinnaker at that time but then its partners split and one created La Vela and the competition began. PCB still has the mess Ft. Lauderdale pushed away. It’s time to stop it. Seventeen Magazine is not off the mark. You don’t see more articles like this because PCB is generally considered too low-brow for coverage.
PCB now has a few tools to create an upscale community but keeps adding downscale attractions. (What looks more tacky than an upside down building with plastic palm trees across the street from a half-sunken fake ship?) It might take a little time to change the national perception of PCB but an upscale community will always attract more revenue than down and trashy. It’s difficult to get my friends to choose to visit PCB because of its trashy reputation and it’s difficult to find good counter-arguments. PCB allows a few commercial interests to outweigh the community’s potential.
Not relevant to this story but adding to the problem is the lack of direct flights from northern cities to the new airport. It takes all day to get here and costs more than a faster nonstop flight to southern Florida. Plus, the TSA agents at the new airport are the same as at the old airport. They developed a well-deserved reputation over the years for over-zealous behavior above and beyond what is found in more cosmopolitan airports or what is necessary for safety.

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11 Cathy March 16, 2011 at 8:13 am

One other thing noone has mentioned here is rental of rooms, condos and beach homes…. there are age limits on these. I know because when my family rents a condo I read what the age requirements are. One question: Are the owners lowering the age requirements just to make money the weeks of Spring Break or are the parents renting these for the kids? Interesting to say the least what grown adult would rent a wonderful condo & allow the kids to go “unsupervised” for a week stay. That’s like telling them (anything goes) as long as we don’t hear about it!
Now, I’m sure not all Spring Breakers are “bad” but, they are there & when the public consider them bad to.
“If you lay with the dogs you will have fleas” so to speak.
I’ve never been to PCB during Spring Break….. and really, I do not want to. I will stick to May or June & September, October for my loved visits there.
Good Luck with the Kids & be sure to thank their Families for sending them down there un-attended. That may be a suggestion, arrest the kids for doing wrong & then fine the parents for what the kids have torn up & destroyed while in PCB. This may cut some visits down & party’s.
At least the parents will know what is going & what their kids are doing. May be a shock to them & an eye opener!
Cathy/Tennessee

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12 Dick Mink March 16, 2011 at 9:03 am

That is seriously funny! Ture as can be and frustrating if you are in the middle of it…but very funny!

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13 Gracelin July 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

Grade A stuff. I’m unquestonaibly in your debt.

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14 Dick Mink March 16, 2011 at 9:04 am

my comment is relative to the Wal Mart beer aisle…

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15 Rya Holloway Phillips March 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Dick, your comment is hilarious and true. I ran to wal-mart the other morning for a few items, and ended up running out and heading to Publix on Back Beach. Granted it was still busy there, but tame. haha. Personally, I don’t care about the whole Spring Break right or wrong thing. I’ve lived all over the world, and have seen similar antics. Vegas is dubbed Sin City, but is also home to some of the most luxurious & expensive vacations in the nation, NY, SF, LA, and a slew of other cities, run about the same. I’m not sure why PCB catches so much flack, considering not once have I seen an AD run that states “hey KIDS, come on down to PCB and get crazy, get drunk and literally PUSH our police to the brink with your antics!” so I’m a little confused over how the location has become such a target. That’s my opinion though, and respect everyone’s opinion here. Just thought I’d throw mine into the mix 🙂

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16 Cathy March 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Rya, I really think PCB became a “target” many many years ago due to being a close and accessible beach and with the strip & various clubs such as Club LaVela etc. it has just manifested. Long ago we thought the crowds were big but, with the population growth as it is today Spring Break seems to have tripled.
Long ago, my Father used to bring us to PCB always in July….. OMGgggg was it crowded! We would wait for hours driving up 98 to go out to eat and in the heat. Crowds of people walking day & night…… that is when there were no condos, just the Mom & Pop places to stay & they were always full.
With the Condos and more places to stay…. just look at the massive amounts of vacationers who can come to PCB now and we still love the beach!
Cathy/Tennessee

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17 John March 17, 2011 at 6:45 am

We used to visit PCB twice a year but now go elsewhere. PCB did not maintain it’s identity as a family venue.

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18 Don March 18, 2011 at 11:15 am

We have been coming to PCB since 1985. Although we have been in June,and October, we have always come during our children’s spring break which is around the first of April. I know what didn’t seem to bother me when I was 22 I really notice now. But now that I am close to fifty many of my friends views of PCB really varies. Those whose children are grown have migrated toward Destin and places that are “slower”. Those that that still have teenagers still look toward PCB. When we get there in two weeks I know there are places you avoid, there are places you don’t stay. This hasn’t really soured me on PCB because I know a month later these same places are just fine. I also realize many of the things that PCB has to offer are a direct result of the revenue that is generated during spring break, especially the college spring break. I’ve always looked at the college spring break as a “red tide”, just realize it’s not going to last long. Looking forward to being there in two weeks and you can see me cruisin the strip every day, If you are out at 6:30 a.m.!!

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19 Tony Delamont March 19, 2011 at 8:38 am

I don’t think this is a smear job so much as a public service announcement for teenage girls. If you are a “Seventeen” reader, then spring break in Panama City Beach is most definitely NOT the place for you. You should be on vacation with your family.
Spring break activities in PCB are geared toward over-21 college students, not underage teens.

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20 Danielle March 22, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I am 34. I have been to PCB 3 times during spirngbreak, had a great time each trip. I meet my husband during springbreak, we went to college 800 miles apart. Have vacationed here 5 times since finishing college, and have reservations for this year. We usually come in late june. Will never come during spring break. The reason is that it’s a 2 day trip to PCB, that only leaves 4 days of fun since kids are in school. I have been here for spring break and will let my 2 girls and 1 boy come to spring break when they are old enough.

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21 Danielle March 22, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Plus we have spent alot more money as a family than we ever did during spring break.

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22 Freaked Out April 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Anyone remember “Freaknick”.

It has been run out of many venues (Virginia Beach, Atlanta, etc.)

Well they have now come to PCB, they just don’t call it Freaknick anymore because of the negativity associated with the name. The big problem with Freaknick is most of the people who come to town for it are not “college kids looking to blow off some steam”. Prime example: The Burger King incident.

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