When more than 3,000 college students swarm the beach at Crystal Pier Aug. 19, both Wrightsville Beach and University of North Carolina Wilmington officials said years of partnership ensure the 2014 UNCW Beach Blast will unfold problem-free.
“We have very, very little incident down there. For the most part, it’s a well-run event,” said Wrightsville Beach Police Department Captain Michael Core during an Aug. 12 phone interview.
Jon Kapell, director for campus activities and involvement with UNCW, said the longstanding tradition provides one last chance for students to enjoy the summer before classes start the next day.
The university takes many precautions to keep the event under control. Three Wrightsville Beach police officers are contracted through the university each year for the afternoon. The officers work with security officers, student staff and more than 40 full-time professional staff members.
Students with a valid student ID are shuttled to and from the beach to alleviate traffic on the island. Bags and coolers are checked for alcohol before students board the shuttles and at every entrance to the event.
Kapell said the number of students caught in violation of the no-alcohol policy has dropped in recent years. He attributes the drop to a change in Beach Blast’s culture.
“We’ve changed the culture of the event. Students want to come to an event where they’re not dealing with drunken beachgoers and they don’t want to be the individuals who do those things,” Kapell said during an Aug. 8 phone interview.
Wrightsville Beach Park Ranger Shannon Slocum said the event is an opportunity to educate new students about rules on the beach.
“It really gives me a good chance to talk to these kids and give them the skinny on the beach because they’ll be here for the next four years. A lot of times it’s questions from A to Z about the beach and what the laws are,” Slocum said. “It’s their golden opportunity to ask questions before we talk to them at a later date.”
Slocum commended university staff and students for their stewardship of the beach.
“They really promote picking up behind yourself out there. UNCW has always been a champion of making sure the place looks cleaner than it was before,” Slocum said.
Following the event, the UNCW chapter of the Surfrider Foundation will host a beach sweep to clean up and offer an opportunity for students to get involved in efforts to preserve and protect the beach.
Kapell said the university values its relationship with Wrightsville Beach and hopes to maintain the confidence of town officials and residents by leaving the beach in the best possible shape.
“We’ve enjoyed the relationship and the opportunity to have the event at Wrightsville Beach and we look forward to many more continued years,” Kapell said.
In the event of inclement weather, Beach Blast will be cancelled.