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Beach Party, Galveston Island, Texas, USA

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Every spring, the little island of Galveston is host to a spectacular event, the Beach Party.

It originally began when a fraternity from one of the local universities decided to organise a beach party for their fellow students. They managed to get a few sponsors involved and generated several radio ads. The event turned out to be quite successful, was subsequently named Kappa Weekend after the fraternity that organised it and became an annual event.

How It Grew

As the years passed, more people participated in Kappa Weekend and soon the number of non-students outnumbered the actual students, which is when the trouble began. While the student-types were for the most part well-behaved, as they were representing their fraternity and university, the non-students basically showed up to disrupt and terrorize the local community. This is no exaggeration. Shoplifting at the Stop-N-Gos and the locally-owned gift shops was rampant. These people would walk into restaurants, eat a meal, and leave without paying. They would thoroughly trash the streets and vandalize shops, houses, cars - anything they could get their hands on. The island police literally had no way of stopping them; they were far outnumbered. Kappa Weekend was unofficially renamed Freaknik.

In 1997 it got to the point where so many revellers were descending on the island like so many flies on a dead animal, that they literally ran out of parking space. There were so many cars parading down the streets of Galveston Island that no parking spaces were available on the sides of the streets. So they followed the most logical step in their demented reasoning: they parked their cars in the middle of the roads. The island was grid locked for the entire weekend. Many of the shop-owners simply closed their doors, forfeiting their much-needed revenue for the weekend (the island is, after all, a tourist town). Residents either left the island by Friday evening or stayed in their houses as virtual prisoners until late Sunday evening, when the party goers decided to finally leave town.

Dealing with the Problem

You can imagine the mood at the next city council session. The decision was made to actually do something about this annual farce for the following year. Some suggested that the island simply be closed that weekend to motorists not living or working on the island1. However, this idea was shot down because of the possible discrimination lawsuits, so they decided to close all of the residential streets to the visitors. This basically left three streets available to non-residents: Broadway, the main entrance to the island; Seawall, the street that separates the beachfront stores from the beach itself; and 61st, a street that connects the other two roads. This basically formed a triangle that the weekend motorists would be forced to stay on while visiting the island. And the event's name was officially changed to Beach Party.

Beach Party 1998

In 1998, the preparations for the impending Freaknik were in full swing. Half the local shop owners announced that they would be closed. Half the residents decided it would be a good weekend to visit relatives on the mainland. Hundreds of policemen from neighbouring communities were hired to help with the teeming masses. Roadblocks were set up. The island held its collective breath.

On the Friday evening, it started to rain. And not only did it rain, but it poured. Needless to say, attendance wasn't that hot on Friday night. There were those brave few revellers who had arrived earlier during the week to snag the precious parking spaces that would soon fill... or so they thought.

Unfortunately for the islanders, but luckily for the revellers, the rain subsided the following evening and eventually stopped altogether. This of course meant that late Saturday night hundreds of last-minute revellers poured onto the island, hell-bent on making the best of the wet weekend. Thousands more followed early on Sunday morning.

However, Galveston was prepared. As hundreds of motorists drove in, heading down Broadway to Seawall, and parked their cars in the middle of the street, the island unleashed its secret weapon: tow trucks. Every time one of the revellers parked their car and headed for the beach, a tow truck would simply drive up and remove it.

Beach Party 1999

The following year, it was a truly beautiful weekend. However, the island's population was only temporarily increased by a mere 150,000, with most of these new inhabitants riding in their cars, cruising the eternal triangle of Broadway, Seawall, and 61st.

1All residents and employees have windshield stickers issued to them every year, in case a hurricane decides to visit the island.

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