Panama City offers sunshine

Mike Schoeck

Spring Break 2002 found seven lucky Quinnipiac juniors at a sunny, mildly warm and white-sandy beach in Panama City, Florida.
With some commotion and delay between Newark, Atlanta and Panama City International Airports, the group arrived early Saturday morning at the pleasant Florida pan-handle, Central Standard Time.
Speaking almost exclusively for the group, our aim for the week was to get some sun, take some adorable snapshots for the kids back home and to enjoy a few nights at the beachfront clubs and bars. All activities tended to remain group outings collectively upon arrival at the Long Beach Resort.
The hotel room actually turned out to be a condominium suite on the 12th floor of the second of four beachfront towers. We struck gold simply by planning and booking the week a good time in advance, and we literally looked down on the other strip of hotels along the Gulf of Mexico.
Trip co-organizer Julie Benson’s hometown friend Jen Green, originally from Plymouth, Mass. and now residing in Panama City proper, showed us the hot spots on the strip and provided friendly transportation.
The first night, despite ticking on roughly four hours of sleep, we found the group at premier club Spinnaker Beach Club & Grill. Situated adjacent to the pricey MTV-featured Club La Vela, Spinnaker had somewhere around 1,000 Spring Breakers moving to the music of a house cover band.
The club had a main patio surrounding a pool where the masses frequented and listened to the group onstage. Several joint rooms featured rave dance music as well a variety of food and bar stations. Covers of some hard rock standards like Poison’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” among others, were played throughout the club.
For the bulk of the week, the gang walked and shuttled between bars and select clubs as well as afternoon Jacuzzi and pool time and an occasional dip in the arctic refreshment of the Gulf waters.
During the day many companies, clubs and shops provided free samples of products, games and activities on the beach. Jet skis and parasailing groups frequently loitered about the water while college students from around the South, Midwest and Northeast were found tanning or burning.
The night life activity concluded with a hearty southern meal at the Waffle House, within throwing distance of the Long Beach complex. Eggs, pancakes, waffles and grits were a favorite of all after a day under the sun, dancing and getting friendly with fellow Spring Breakers.
Due to the schools’ early time for Spring Break , the populous was not as tremendous as the other weeks that followed. MTV did on and off shooting at La Vela for its ‘Undercover’ series, but full coverage was not taped and aired until after this group had left.