Florida Beaches Swell With Spring Break Revelers
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ College students from Carolina to California, Boston to Baton Rouge are hitting Florida’s beaches and bars almost as fast as the beer is pouring out in spite of austerity suggestions from a Reagan Cabinet member.
″I haven’t seen that many weird things, just masses of people partying their brains out,″ said T-shirt saleswoman Lori McIntire. ″This is just the beginning.″
More college students are expected here from mid-February through the end of March than the 350,000 who came last year, pumping approximately $120 million into the local economy, tourism officials say.
The students, snubbing the advice of the Reagan administration, are continuing a 30-year tradition of spending spring break at the beach.
The hordes were advised against taking part in the beach blow-out by the newly appointed U.S. secretary of education, William Bennett, a former college philosophy professor.
In Bennett’s view, students should pay more attention to saving money than celebrating, particularly in light of a Reagan administration proposal to restrict government-guaranteed student loans.
When he took office in February, Bennett said the proposed cuts ″may require from students divestiture of certain sorts: stereo divestiture, automobile divestiture, three-weeks-at-the-beach divestiture.″
But judging by the thousands of students crowding the sidewalks and beaches in Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach, few have taken Bennett’s advice seriously.
″It’s just not very realistic,″ said Natalie Pricher, 21, a Penn State student. ″I mean, part of going to school is learning what life is all about.″
Ms. Pricher, lounging at a beachfront nightspot, said Bennett ″should have been here the other night when those guys from the U.S. Naval Academy were singing that chant: ’We don’t pay for school.‴
″I’m sure he (Bennett) didn’t go straight home for his spring break,″ added her friend, Annie Bower, 20, also from Penn State.
Down the strip, the Jolly Roger Hotel, built in 1952, is one of the spots that has attracted spring break crowds for years.
″We have guys 40 to 50 years old come in here, take a look around and say, ’I used to come here for spring break,‴ said Sean Dugan, 24, the Jolly Roger’s manager.
Dugan said the hotel earns a significant percentage of its annual profits during spring break, when room rates soar from $40 to $90 a night.The rooms are 80 percent full and he expects 100 percent occupancy by next weekend.
″You can tell these kids have been cooped up all winter,″ said Dugan, 24, who moved to Fort Lauderdale after a spring break visit two years ago.
Meanwhile, health officials are on alert for measles, given an outbreak earlier this month at Boston University, where 55 cases were confirmed.
″We have called all the emergency rooms and have notified clinics in the area,″ said Myra Lentz, Broward County Health Unit administrator.
Ms. Lentz says her department will immunize students against measles if they ask for it, but there are no plans for a major immunization drive. So far only eight students have come in for a shot.
Other than that, officials have had little to worry about this year, although police in riot gear were called out to quell a crowd that surged from one bar and blocked a highway.
″The crowd is basically good,″ said Mike Dipple of the Fort Lauderdale police. ″The only arrests we’ve made out here all week are three for shoplifting ... and they were all locals.″