Panama City Beach. PCB. The Spring Break capitol of the U.S. Well, maybe not anymore. This vacation spot in Northwest Florida is known for drawing crowds thanks to beautiful beaches. In recent years it has made headlines for other reasons, and those reasons are attributed to the unofficial holiday during March when thousands of college kids converge on the Bay County Beach town for Fun in the Sun during the week that their respective schools are out for Spring Break. I never indulged in spring break as a student, but I now call this city home. I moved to Panama City Beach during the summer of 2012 from Alabama and I knew about people coming here for vacation, but it was bigger than I thought.
For someone that had never been to Florida at all before I moved here, I thought I would see people going to the beach, or see people walking around in bikinis or holding beers since it was June at the time. I knew spring break got crazy at times from me growing up in Alabama and hearing about it, but I thought that being here in the summer it would be a lot less mild. The first thing I did was stop at a Wal-mart Supercenter when I made it here, and when I walked inside I wondered if I somehow was transported to a party on the beach . All I could think was “wow”. This wasn’t even Spring Break.
I would come to see the madness of Spring Break nine months later. I’m not a drinker. I never have been, and never wanted to be. I always say “to each their own”, and I don’t mind people having fun and having a good time. No, I DO NOT condone some of the things that have happened in recent years, like people being raped or shot, but I also am not a fan of the 2016 No drinking on the beach law. I’m not a drinker, as stated earlier, so I’m not affected by that as far as the drinking thing goes, but with me being a resident of this city I am affected by the hit that the local economy takes.
I didn’t grow up in a vacation spot, so I was unaware of how important certain parts of the year are here compared to others as far as making revenue is concerned, other than national holidays. That month is a big money time for the beach, so the revenue brought in from 100,000 or so extra people coming into the city buying whatever it is that they are going to buy is of great importance. Before you go saying that I am saying I think everything should be all about money let me say something….everything shouldn’t be all about money. I’m not a politician or a city leader, but I do understand the importance of your area having a good reputation.
I understand that during a time that 18-22 (or more) year olds come to town in droves that any bad incident is going to make national headlines and make people look at your town in a negative way. I understand that drunk and disorderly people can be rude, people zig-zagging on scooters can be annoying, and people not cleaning up their trash is messy. I do also know that a lot of people around here count on that revenue to feed their families. If you are a retail manager or worker, a club owner or worker, a restaurant owner or worker, or an owner of certain seasonal small businesses you need that money to help you make a living. If you have another career, are retired or work for the city council or the Sheriff’s Office then you may not be affected by the new laws in that way so you, depending on who you are in that class of people, might not care about the needs of those people.
To be fair, it is the job of law enforcement to serve and protect, and locals don’t have to be subjected to wild and crazy behavior. At the same time, I don’t think it makes sense for law enforcement to do random cup, bottle or can checks on the beach. I also don’t think it is fair to the local couple that has made a good living for themselves and on a weekend that they both have off, they can’t walk out of their back door with their beach chairs to go relax on the beach and have a beer together. It makes no sense to me to punish people that are obviously not displaying disorderly conduct. From my experience, Spring Break was more calm last year and should be this year so they have accomplished what they set out to do, but it’s done at the expense of people that need the money and people that might want to just relax on the beach without being harassed or arrested for something that is legal for the other 11 months of the year.
I have lived the majority of my time here right in the middle of it all. I had roommates in a condo with 21 floors at one point, and getting an elevator during the spring is like waiting in line at the DMV. Annoying at times I will admit, especially since we stayed on the 15th floor, but life is annoying at times without Spring Break. It is what it is. A couple of times I had random people knock on my window and scream at night. I guess for me that isn’t enough to despise Spring Break even though it obviously got on my nerves. Would I change anything if I could go back? No. I liked my roommates and liked living there despite the occasional annoying incident. The place I live now is right on a busy road and close to night clubs and condos, so it’s like being right in the middle of the city that never sleeps. During the spring people are constantly coming by, being loud, and yelling “WOOOHOOOO!” when you go out to your mail box. I knew what I was getting myself into, and there is always something going on here. During bike week, which happens twice a year, it constantly sounds like motorcycles are revving up in my living room.
I’m not being whiny and saying “Get rid of bike week!!” I’m not saying that anyone against spring break is whining either. I’m just saying that people should know that this is a vacation spot and a beautiful city, so what else do they expect? This isn’t a city-sized retirement community. I’d be willing to bet that a lot of people that complain were just as wild in their day, and now that they are married with kids or just old they want peace and quiet. Maybe they are neither and just don’t have a life other than playing video games all night, so they just hate on the people that aren’t that lame and actually want to get some fresh air. I say let the kids have some fun. If you are spiritual, invite them to your church instead of talking down about them. How about being a missionary instead of just being sour.
I can understand wanting to cut down on negative incidents. Trust me; I get it. Let us not forget about the people that, like you, have to make a living and thereby depend on having these people come so they can take care of their families. Yes, it’s only one month, but think from the perspective of the guy or lady that works at one of these restaurants that has kids that go to school with your kids or grandkids. You could argue that kids don’t need to see people getting drunk and taking off their bras, or having sex on the beach. I agree with that, but kids also need to eat and everyone doesn’t have a lucrative career. A lot of these people are out of work during the winter months, and Spring Break comes and they can begin to provide for their loved ones better.
Yes, it’s up to them to manage their money, because they know they will have their hours cut for a few months, but I live across the street from a restaurant that closes completely for a few months. It’s not just a building that is there for show, people work there. Locals get their feelings hurt because they see half-naked people, and laws get passed so now places like that take a hit. I feel the need to keep on bringing up the fact that I’m not saying that there should be no order, because I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that people should get over themselves and their feelings. That’s my opinion. You have yours and probably think I’m stupid if you disagree. That is totally fine with me.
I honestly have never understood why people feel the need to go out of town just to get drunk. I think people can do that at home and save money, but maybe people like to be able to say they came to the beach to do it. Obviously they do, because now that they can’t they aren’t coming here. Opinions differ on the subject. I’ve ran my mouth for a while and given mine. Thank God for freedom of speech. They can disagree, but they can’t take that away.