College students taking a break from their studies and young adults who say they just needed a vacation are among the tens of thousands of visitors on the Mississippi Gulf Coast this weekend for black spring break.
Many of the visitors on Saturday said they’ve enjoyed the Biloxi beaches, the hospitality from locals and the iconic South Mississippi cuisine. Spring breakers, they said, are here to have a good time and make memories with friends.
“We’re going to be resting some during the day because we’re going to be out all day,” said Jonquale Clark of Baton Rouge, who was browsing Edgewater Mall with friends. He decided to come to spring break for the first time after seeing ads for the Spring Fest concert on social media.
“I liked it, so I wanted to have some fun,” said the senior at Southern University, who will graduate next month with a criminal justice degree. “I like the beaches, the women, and the food. Wherever I go, I have a good time. When I show up, I show out.”
A lot of spring breakers were in town for the special events like Spring Fest, the car shows, poolside parties, and other Black Beach Weekend fun.
Mikayla Laster, a Jackson resident, said she intends to attend all the events but was also enjoying the simple things on the Coast.
“I like just walking up and down the beach, listening to the music and talking with friends,” Laster said. “I have friends from here. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re going to do; we’ll just go wherever the wind takes us.”
Laster, 19, has earned the leisure time. She’s studying psychology at Southeastern Baptist College in Laurel and played on the women’s basketball team. Her goal is to become a behavior analyst for the FBI.
Deja Smith, 38, from Auburn, Alabama, has come to black spring break for the last five years. She has never been disappointed.
“I love the beaches and the food,” she said. “My friends and I go to all the concerts, parties and clubs. We just have a great time.”
Smith has heard people speak negatively about spring break. She doesn’t agree with them.
“I’ve come here every year,” she said. “All this about shooting and killing and fighting, I haven’t seen any of that ... we don’t have a problem at all.”
Spring breakers don’t like traffic plan
One thing Smith doesn’t like though, “is when they block the roads off. I can’t stand that.”
Smith isn’t alone. Several spring breakers said they didn’t care for Biloxi’s traffic plan that uses cones and barriers on U.S. 90 and will block left turns in some areas when traffic is congested. Traffic is also reduced to one lane in some areas, so police and first responders can have easy access to potential accident scenes when traffic is at its heaviest. Reducing traffic to one lane on U.S. 90 is done when traffic is at its heaviest, usually on Friday and Saturday nights.
Miller said the traffic plan promotes safety for pedestrians and drivers.
A Jackson man who goes by Patreal drives a custom car showcased at a black spring break event. The barricades and codes, he said, is a big turnoff for him and gives a bad image of Biloxi.
“I come here for Scrapin’ the Coast and Crusin’ The Coast,” Patreal said. “They don’t have that kind of activity. And all these tow trucks —I’ve done seen more tow trucks than regular cars down here.”
The cones, however, were purchased by the city for use at events on the Coast — like Cruisin’ The Coast and Scrapin’ the Coast — when the traffic plan could be implemented.
At events like Cruisin’ and Scrapin’, Patreal said, “They’re burning out, doing all kinds of stuff, but nobody gets stressed. I guess it’s a different crowd, different people. But I’m enjoying myself and making the best of it.”
Biship Richardson, Patreal’s associate also drives a custom vehicle in the car show, said he was asked to move his car at one point.
“They’re (City of Biloxi) not making it welcomed, not making this friendly for us. It’s unnecessary, he said. “I just make the best of it. We came down here to support the event.”
‘We’re just enjoying life’
Other car enthusiasts like the attention their unique vehicles receive at black spring break.
Robert Lestrick, President of Mopar Mafia Car Club, came to Biloxi with his custom vehicles from French Quarter Fest in New Orleans.
“We’re coming out and having a good time with the people in the Mississippi area,” he said. “We come out and hang out with some guys and also socialize with other people in the car industry. Mississippi is a nice area to come through and let them know the value of the vehicle they have.”
Sullivan Bell, a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, is also a member of Mopar Mafia.
Bell has heard negative things about black spring break, but it doesn’t stop him from coming. He’s been to six of them so far.
“Everybody have different views from how they see things,” Bell said. “My view is we’re out here just having fun, I don’t see anything wrong with what we’re doing. We’re just enjoying life.”
Black spring break events wrap up Sunday, with most visitors leaving the area late Sunday afternoon.