Staff photo by Allison Potter
Students from the University of North Carolina Wilmington play volleyball north of Crystal Pier during Beach Blast on Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Sunny weather welcomed thousands of University of North Carolina Wilmington students to Wrightsville Beach for Beach Blast 2013, but the Wrightsville Beach Police Department welcomed some of those students in another way.
Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House, who patrolled the Tuesday, Aug. 20 event from his vehicle, said the alcohol citations his officers informed him of were in parking lots, not the Beach Blast area.
“There’s been some students out there drinking in the parking lots and then trying to get into Beach Blast. But, actually, at the beach we haven’t had any issues so far that I’m aware of,” House said.
Captain P. Burdette Jr., who was walking the beach strand, said there were five open container charges as of around 1:30 p.m. The four-hour event began at 11 a.m.
Burdette said no criminal charges were issued, only civil citations.
In 2011, officers did not circle the parking lot areas and no citations were issued.
“We only had a couple of officers assigned to the beach strand, and we didn’t address anything else,” House said. “But we started to get reports this time that people were drinking in parking lots then coming in.”
Three Wrightsville Beach police officers were stationed at the event, with House and Burdette patrolling intermittently.
Beach Blast 2012 was canceled due to weather. Jon Kapell, UNCW director for campus activities and involvement, said university staff made the final decision to hold the event by 6 a.m. based on weather forecasts.
The official attendance count for the event totaled more than 3,400 people.
Public Beach Access No. 36 is the main access at the end of Nathan Street, but the Beach Blast area extended past accesses 35 and 37.
“We’ve increased the space about 100 yards,” Kapell said. “I think that’s helping us out a bit.”
Jay Souza, UNCW Environmental Health and Safety technician, helped with the first aid station underneath Crystal Pier.
“We handle typical cuts and scrapes,” he said.
Students in previous years suffering from heat exhaustion would lie down on the sand beneath the pier, but Souza said that was not an issue this year.
Before noon, a handful of students were treated for cuts from shells.
For the first time, there were two-gallon jugs of SPF 30 sunscreen at the station for students to use.
Freshmen Danielle Oliver and Melissa Cutler enjoyed Beach Blast responsibly, and said it was an opportunity to meet a lot of new people.
“Everyone was talking about how Beach Blast was awesome,” Oliver said.
They visited vendors, played cornhole and watched the wheelbarrow race.
Both had been to Wrightsville Beach before, and said it is their local beach of choice because of the proximity to the school.
Mae Henry, president of the UNCW chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and fellow members were encouraging students to sign a new water bottle petition. Several students signed in favor of a campus ban on sales of single-use plastic water bottles.
Henry said even with recycling containers located nearby trashcans at the event, many recyclables were still thrown into trashcans.
In addition to 11 WAVE shuttles, two UNCW shuttles were transporting students who did not drive to and from the event.
The event wrapped up at 3 p.m., but students who stayed later could also take a shuttle back at 6 p.m.
During the 4-6 p.m. Beach Sweep, about 20 volunteers picked up more than 300 trash and recycling items throughout the Beach Blast strand.