Monday, March 05, 2007

Day Two: Lauderdale Beach



St. Joseph's University students Brian Randazzo, 22, Peter Stinson, 22, Samantha Baron, 21, and Lindsay Hillard, 21, knew Fort Lauderdale discourages Spring Break rowdiness these days. Which is part of why they came here from Philadelphia for their senior year break.


"We didn't really want a hotbed of partying," explained Lindsay. And at the Avalon Waterfront Inns on AIA, they certainly weren't going togetting it. On the pool deck, a baby cried on its mother's shoulder; a senior citizen lounged with a paperback novel.

On Day Two of our Florida Spring Break Odyssey, we discovered the Fort Lauderdale Beach touted by tourism officials: a place for everyone.

The down-with-raucousness approach has worked well from an economic standpoint. Twenty-five years ago, in the heyday of college Spring Break, Fort Lauderdale drew about 3.3 million total visitors per year. Now it draws about 10.3 million, say tourism officials. About 10,000 of those are college kids -- and judging by the crowd Monday, excessive rowdiness isn't a problem. I-pods have all but eliminated boom boxes, and the wildest thing going was a football toss.

"I like seeing the kids. I haven't seen any bad behavior," said adult Spring Breaker Glenna Forsythe of Coventry, R.I., who was spending a post-cruise day on the beach before heading north.

Still, some Lauderdale businesses court college Spring Breakers. Orlando students Giovana Faezy, 19, Ashland Roberts, 20, and Monica Carvalho, 20, were collecting promotional cards and brochures as they lay on the beach. Club fliers -- some printed on condoms -- promised free drinks, free shuttles and bare breasts. "Where the beautiful people come to get ugly," said one.

The beach crowd -- elders, gay men, families, college kids -- mirrored what has happened across the street, where old Lauderdale-style motels like Avalon Waterfront Inns and Beach Club Hotel sit block-by-block with the tony Atlantic Hotel, $1 million-plus condos of the St. Regis, then Hooters and Fat Tuesday and the once world-famous Elbo Room.

Like most things here, the Elbo Room is a goodly bit different from the days when Connie Francis and George Hamilton filmed Where the Boys Are in the 1960s. On this Monday afternoon, a crowd of about 50 listened to a guitarist singing Tom Petty's Freefallin'. Most were over 50, too; only a handful qualified as college aged.

Despite the obvious signs of age, the pony-tailed bouncer, who wouldn't give his name, checked every I.D. "I carded a guy in here the other day who was 92. Heck, I even carded my own wife. I don't care."


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PHOTOS BY JANE WOOLDRIDGE / MIAMI HERALD

Above: Lindsay Hillard, 21, Samantha Baron, 21, Brian Randazzo, 22, Peter Stinson, 22, from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

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