- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2003

MIAMI BEACH, Fla., March 13 (UPI) — Thanks to MTV, spring break has popped up in south Florida's South Beach for the first time and spilled over to Fort Lauderdale and Key West.

In the light of the tourism slump in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the prospects for war in Iraq, officials are delighted at the new business.

Jeanne Sullivan of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it's too early for an official count or the economic impact but the signs are good. The streets of Miami Beach — where south Beach is located — are filled and hotels are booked to capacity.

The good news is that there has been little or no trouble, a usual downside to spring break.

"We've had a good season," Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer told The Miami Herald. "I have not gotten any complaints in my office. Everybody, from what I understand has been well behaved."

Key West Police spokeswoman Cynthia Edwards said the breakers "have been pretty well behaved. Nothing major has happened."

MTV is usually the pied piper for spring breakers. With its "Girls Gone Wild" series shot during spring break and series of concerts, the college students tend to turn up where ever it goes.

Hundreds were already lined up at 8 a.m. Thursday to get into one of the music network's shows.

Shooting ends Friday, but spring break usually lasts from late February to early April.

In recent years, MTV has set up shop in Cancun, Mexico. Before that it was at Panama City, Fla., Padre Island, Texas, and Daytona Beach, Fla. All are still big spring break destinations.

Florida's Fort Lauderdale, site of the icon book and movie "Where the Boys Are," ran the event out of town more than a decade ago, but now it's back on a smaller scale.

"Hot body contests," so far have been the biggest draw. Club Atlantis is also staging beer chugging contests, foam contests and boxing.

In addition to MTV, the students are lured by special hotel rates, open bars and admonitions not to travel overseas with a war on the horizon.

At the Chesterfield Hotel, where "Girls Gone Wild" is being taped, spokesman Chris Rollins said business has itself gone wild.

"We've always been popular on spring break," said Rollins, who also represents two other hotels. "This (Girls Gone Wild) just pushed us over the edge."

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