Most high schools and colleges observed Spring Break March 14-22, and a norther that blew into the Coastal Bend March 12 brought rain and temperatures in the 50s for the next few days. The beach was practically deserted during the bad weather. But, by Monday, March 16, temps had climbed into the 70s, and folks started pouring into town.
The rain was a blessing, in a sense, because the water packed the sand on the beach, making it more drivable after months of drought that had made the sand so loose that it was hard to drive in some areas without getting stuck.
Port Aransas police on the beach responded to a stabbing and a hit-and-run incident, both of which resulted in minor to moderate injuries. Officers also dealt with plenty of the usual alcohol-related offenses and other incidents associated with holiday crowds.
Animal Control Officer Jim Williams handled three problems involving pitbulls on the beach. (See story, Page 2B.)
But, overall, City Manager Michael Kovacs said things went smoothly, with no major problems.
Kovacs said the demographic of "post-college professional singles between the ages of 25 and 35" appeared to be hitting town in greater numbers than most years. Port Aransas seemed to be seeing more college students than usual too, he said.
Some folks may have chosen Port Aransas rather than other parts of the Texas coast because South Padre still is feeling the effects of a blow by Hurricane Dolly last summer, and Galveston continues efforts to recover from the devastating Hurricane Ike, Kovacs said.
"I thought things went very well," said Ann Bracher Vaughan, executive director of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce - Tourist Bureau. "We had a lot of families, a lot of first-time families in (the chamber building). Interestingly enough, I looked back at our registry book and found that we had people from Germany, England, Alaska and Hawaii. … And a lot of people from the Midwest who had come down for Spring Break."
Mike Hall, co-owner and store director at the Family Center IGA, said the sun came out just in time for merchants.
"Considering that we had four days of bad weather, we did pretty well," Hall said.
Still, Hall said he'll have to wait until Easter to be able to compare last year's Spring Break with this year's. Last year, Easter coincided with Spring Break, which pumped up business during the Spring Break period.
Greg Villasana, owner of Phoenix Café and La Playa restaurants, said business rebounded noticeably once the better weather set in.
"Starting on (March 17), it was pretty strong," Villasana said. "Not better than last year, but not terrible by any means."
Villasana said he, too, noticed what seemed to be more college-age visitors in town.
The norther caused some cancellations at condominiums, said Jim Triplett, managing director of CCMS, a firm that manages 10 properties on Mustang Island, including Sandcastle, the Aransas Princess and La Mirage.
"But after the weather cleared … we started picking up on reservations again," Triplett said. "And the week ending (March 22) actually exceeded last year's Spring Break."