Celebrating the arrival of Spring Break is nothing new. The ancient Greeks, for instance, staged elaborate overindulgent celebrations in honor of their god of wine and merriment, Dionysus. The Romans called him Bacchus, which is where we get the term “bacchanalia,” a word meaning “drunken revelry”.
Yep, that sounds like Spring Break to me.
According to historians, our modern Spring Break dates back to the 1930’s when Fort Lauderdale, Florida opened its first Olympic-sized swimming pool, luring hundreds of east coast college swim teams and fellow students to the perpetual warmth and sand. At its peak, Fort Lauderdale’s Spring Break population soared to nearly 400,000 visitors, fueled by MGM’s 1960 release of Glendon Swarthout’s coming-of-age movie, “Where the Boys Are”.
Spring Break is a rite of passage for young people, utilizing adult decision-making skills to seek wild parties, beautiful beaches and elaborate resorts.
Many years ago, three buddies and I piled our golf clubs and meager travel gear into a beat up Chevy Suburban for the 12-hour drive to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was Spring Break during our sophomore year in college, and we kind of broke tradition by doing something other than heading for the Florida beaches.
We played golf all day, then hit the beach for the nightlife. We started the week by grilling out steak dinners. By week’s end, we were subsisting on Jiffy Pop™ from the cooktop in our hotel room kitchenette.
Not everyone made Spring Break trips in those days. It cost money. If you did, you didn’t stray far from the normal car paths to Florida, or later San Padre Island, Texas. Very few young people could afford to fly for their Spring Break.
That’s certainly different, today. Young adults have resources, and low airfares and great packages on Internet travel sites have opened up the entire world.
No young person is willing to give up a good party, but increasingly vacationers are looking for much more to do with the rest of their time than lounging on the beach with a good book. People want to create memories, and memories are now affordable.
For instance, you can book a six-day resort package in Cancun, Mexico for around $1,500, or in Nassau, Bahamas for under $2,000.
You don’t have to go to the beach, either. Travelers are opting away from the sand, seeking to explore other cultures. My younger brothers, for example, made trips to London and Rome, each for about $1,700. Barcelona, Spain is becoming popular, too.
The cheap airfares are courtesy of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, which started airfares plummeting by nearly 50 percent. That Barcelona trip? Airfare alone would have cost $4,681 in 1979.
I think those of my generation are owed something from young adults for making Spring Break so affordable. A thank you would be nice, but how about springing for a seat behind you next year?
I’ll bring the popcorn.
John O. Marlowe is a reporter, sports writer and award-winning columnist for The Paper.