VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — College Beach Weekend appears to be coming two weeks early in Virginia Beach this year.
A city spokesperson said social media posts from “promoters” have been detected that indicate a large volume of college-aged students headed to the Oceanfront. Thus, the city is gearing up for a busy spring weekend filled with sporting tournaments, local events on top of what they classify as “unpermitted college spring break activities.”
Historically, College Beach Weekend is known as the weekend students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) come to the resort for a weekend of fun before finals.
However, the weekend has often been marred by violence, with much of the community in the past encouraging the city to find a way to make the event disappear.
Previously held on the fourth weekend of April, College Beach Weekend is now expected to arrive April 8 through 10. According to a city manager’s memo sent to City Council Friday, more than 15,000 people are expected to gather in Virginia Beach for the festivities.
“Virginia Beach is no stranger to visitors to our community – we welcome millions of guests every year who come to enjoy our beautiful beaches, great amenities, and the hospitable residents who make Virginia Beach an inviting place to visit,” said Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney. “At the same time, we ask that all parties respect each other, their property, and the laws we all follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for guests and residents alike.”
Prior to 2019, the annual weekend event has generated large crowds in the resort city accompanied by a string of crimes and shootings.
In 2018 alone, the weekend events wrapped up with more than 40 physical arrests. There were also several shootings investigated.
The spike in crimes and shootings during College Beach Weekend led to the fruition of the Something in the Water festival.
A collaboration between Virginia Beach native Pharrell Williams and city council members, SITW was introduced as a way to counter the spring weekend’s high crimes with a three-day music and cultural festival.
And it worked.
In 2019, over 35,000 people traveled to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront for Something in the Water which brought together several big-name acts like Missy Elliott, Pusha T, Chris Brown, Jay-Z and many more, in an effort to move the city away from the stigma of College Beach Weekend.
Then-Deputy City Manager Steve Cover even mentioned the improvement from previous spring weekend events.
The festival was canceled two years in a row on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October 2021, Pharrell stated that SITW would not be returning to Virginia Beach in 2022 citing that the city is run by “toxic energy” and hasn’t valued his proposed solutions. In a letter to the Virginia Beach City Manager Patrick Duhaney, the 48-year-old singer and entrepreneur said the festival was successful in easing racial tensions, unifying the region and bringing about economic development opportunities.
So this year, the city is tasked with going at it alone. Communications Director Tiffany Russell said the city has worked quickly to come up with a plan.
“We want to make sure that everyone is safe. It’s a public safety issue. We want to make sure we’re staffed up to prepare for what we are anticipating to be thousands of kids,” Russell said.
There will be an increased presence of both police and the resort ambassadors this weekend, Russell said.
In addition, for the first time, there will be live music. Traditionally, the city hadn’t provided live music on the boardwalk until the summer season began.
“So we will have activity down here at the oceanfront at 17th and 24th Street stage until 10 p.m.,” Russell said.
Disorderly conduct, illegal weapons and assaults will be met with zero tolerance the city’s webpage for the weekend boldly states. In a recent meeting on violence, regional mayors agreed that must be the motto for all cities following an increase in gun violence.
Russell touted that the Virginia Beach Police Department has been working on plans for crowd control at the Oceanfront. New surveillance cameras, floodlights and gunshot detection technology have been installed at the Oceanfront within the last year.
Above all, Russell emphasized the city wants to be welcoming.
It’s long been contended that the resort is anything but for people of color.
The City of Virginia Beach is planning ‘enhanced’ safety measures for the weekend of April 8-10.
Traffic on I-264 eastbound may be diverted at Parks Avenue and redirected westbound on I-264 as early as 7 p.m. on Friday, April 8; 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 9; and 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 10. If the diversion is deemed necessary, the eastbound exit for S. Birdneck Road and the westbound exit for First Colonial Road would be closed.
- VBPD says to expect a strong presence from officers
- Camera monitoring throughout the Oceanfront
- Traffic Operations will work to minimize impacts of traffic in residential neighborhoods
- City crews will work to quickly empty trash receptacles and clean up the area
- Public safety will maintain access for emergency services (Police, Fire, EMS) to reach all neighborhoods and the Oceanfront area
The city is requesting feedback from residents, business owners and visitors in advance of this weekend. Go to this link to complete the short survey. It asks questions about residency, safety, plans to visit, etc.