Spring Break 2011 Marks the 50th Anniversary of Spring Break and Provides a Review of 50 Years of American Culture 

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Spring Break 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary of the annual seasonal migration of 50,000 or more college students seeking sun, sand, and romance for a week's escape from  the stress of academia.  It is worth looking back over the history of this event, not only because it's a shared American experience, but because the evolving nature of Spring Break reflects the changes in youth culture over the past 50 years.

You ain't seen nothing yet.

Spring Break 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary of the annual seasonal migration of 50,000 or more college students seeking sun, sand, and romance for a week's escape from the stress of academia. It is worth looking back over the history of this event, not only because it's a shared American experience, but because the evolving nature of Spring Break reflects the changes in youth culture over the past 50 years.

We can thank collegiate swimming for establishing the tradition upon which today’s legendary Spring Break is based. Each winter since the late 1930s, college swim teams have traveled to Fort Lauderdale to train and get into shape before the competitive swimming season starts.

1960s:  However, 1960 saw two events that would change the nature of this tradition and turn it into the Spring Break extravaganza that we know now.  One, the FDA approved the oral contraceptive or birth control pill.   Two, the movie “Where the Boys Are,”  a “coming of age” story about four collegiate girls on spring vacation in Fort Lauderdale, appeared in movie theaters.  By March 1961, Fort Lauderdale (population 80,000) was inundated by 50,000 college students seeking the vacation experience they had seen on screen.  Voila!  Spring Break was born!

1970s:  While the Spring Break of the 60s seemed wild to the  residents of Fort Lauderdale, as Al Jolson could have told them “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Articles in Playboy and National Lampoon along with the 70s anthems of “free love” and freely flowing intoxicants drew increasingly larger numbers of students to the beaches in Florida during the 70's. 

1980s:  In 1985, Fort Lauderdale's record crowd of 350,00 students caused the city to pass an open container law to control drinking and a concrete wall along A1A to control pedestrian traffic. The following year MTV made its first Spring Break appearance in Daytona Beach, which established it as the new capital of Spring Break. After a decade of “anything goes” partying, the Gen Xers began putting their own spin on the Spring Break tradition.  Less willing to spend an entire week getting drunk, the Spring Breakers of the 80s started adding some other activities to the sex, drinks, and rock and roll bacchanalia.  While still focused on surf, sun, and good times, these participants also included such excursions as going to theme parks, snorkeling and scuba diving, or even going to a job fair and visiting corporate marketing booths.  

1990s:  By this time, the demand for hotel rooms in Daytona had driven the room rate to the point where Spring Break tour operators were forced to look for more profitable destinations. The tour operators organized beach side events and “Party Programs” with thee local bars and night clubs in Panama City Beach, South Padre Island, Grand Bahamas, Nassau, Jamaica and Mexico. Daytona  Beach reached its peak in 1989 and,like Fort Lauderdale, the city passed laws to control drinking and said goodbye to MTV.  By 1994 the Internet was evolving and the Digital Natives began arriving at Spring Break. Once again the culture of the event was changing (albeit sticking to the central theme of booze, beautiful weather, and “boys meet girls”).  And so, for example, in 1995 http://www.SPRINGBREAK.COM was launched.  This site provided students around the world with all the latest information about the shows, the performers, the hotels, and travel tips on how to buy Spring Break travel packages to the top destinations. 

2000s:  Spring Break continues to grow as a cultural event outside the United States. There are now several Spring Break events in Europe, the Caribbean, and Mexico, while foreign students come to the U.S. “Alternative Spring Break” events--community service activities where a small group of college students  engage in volunteer service, are also now organized during Spring Break week. These events grew in popularity with the overwhelming interest in service work along the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

So that's it:  50 years of American history tied up with the traditional of Spring Break.  What will the next 50 years bring?  That’s anyone’s guess.  But http://www.SPRINGBREAK.COM will be there to capture those changes, whatever they turn out to be.

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