On The Coast: 'june Bugs' Descend On Beach Towns (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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On the Coast: 'Junebugs' Descend on Beach Towns

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:08
I'm Rebecca Sheir and welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today's show is dedicated to all the newbies, novices and neophytes out there. We're calling it Rookies. And in this next segment we're going to hear the tale of some people who are, in a way, rookies at the game of life. We'll hear more in our regular segment, On The Coast.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:29
In which Bryan Russo brings us the latest from Coastal Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And this week the latest is the arrival of thousands of high school seniors in beach towns like Ocean City. Locals call these teens June bugs. And, depending on whom you ask, their presence is either considered a blessing or a bother. Bryan Russo joins us now from our studio in Ocean City to talk about the impact June bugs have on the Coast each year. Hey there, Bryan.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

00:00:55
Hey, Rebecca. How are you?

SHEIR

00:00:56
Good, good. So June bugs, how big -- I’m going to say it. How big an infestation are we talking about there in Ocean City?

RUSSO

00:01:03
Well, this is the time of year we call Senior Week or Beach Week. It's much longer than just a week, though. It goes from sometime around Memorial Day all the way through the end of June. And by the end, thousands upon thousands of high school graduates will have passed through places like Ocean City and Dewy Beach. So think of it kind of like an annual cicada swarm, but rather than weird-looking bugs, it's 17- and 18-year-old kids.

SHEIR

00:01:25
And for most of these 17- and 18-year-olds, is it their first real taste of freedom?

RUSSO

00:01:29
Absolutely. I talked about that earlier this week with Ryan Gielen. He's a filmmaker, who actually made a movie called The Graduates, a sort of coming-of-age comedy about Senior Week.

RUSSO

00:01:54
Gielen says Senior Week is both a preview of adulthood and a chance to say goodbye to childhood and the people with whom you grew up.

MR. RYAN GIELEN

00:02:01
This is it, you know, everything you've ever wanted to say or do, you know have like six or seven days left to do it. So people have an incredible time, they take a lot of stupid risks, and they have a lot of fun. It's just a crazy time.

SHEIR

00:02:19
So I'm hearing stupid risks. I'm hearing crazy time. So can this time also get pretty crazy for the Ocean City Police? I mean, what does the arrival of the June bugs mean for officers?

RUSSO

00:02:28
Well, it's safe to say, they're much busier this time of year, in June. In the off season, like during April for instance, they might get a couple thousand calls from the public. Whereas in June, that number can be way above 10,000. But what's particularly interesting this year is that the state law just changed. And cops are now allowed to write citations, rather than simply arrest people, for certain offenses like possession of marijuana or disorderly conduct.

RUSSO

00:02:53
Mike Levy is a spokesman for the Ocean City Police Department. He says this new law was designed to cut down on paperwork for police officers. But he's a little worried about how effective it's going to be when it comes to June bugs, especially those who consume alcohol.

MR. MIKE LEVY

00:03:07
The concern where we have large groups of kids who break the law by consuming alcoholic beverages under age and we issue them citations because under the guidelines, they would be eligible for a citation, how seriously are they going to take the citation at that moment? As we know, when people drink and consume alcoholic beverages and get intoxicated, generally their decision-making abilities are diminished considerably.

SHEIR

00:03:37
Very true. But so many of these kids live hundreds of miles away, right? So is it going to be hard to get them to comply with their citations and actually show up for a court date?

RUSSO

00:03:46
Exactly. And so it's going to be really interesting to see how this new law unfolds with respect to these teens.

SHEIR

00:03:53
So, Bryan, I want to switch gears for a moment, and talk about business owners in the area. How do local businesses feel about the influx of all these June bugs?

RUSSO

00:04:02
It really depends on what your business sells. Lee Gerachis owns Malibu's Surf Shop on the boardwalk, and he thinks June bugs are bad for a resort like Ocean City, which, of course, markets itself as a family-friendly destination.

MR. LEE GERACHIS

00:04:13
You have people that have never been here before that happen to come in June because their little kids get out of school. And when they book their hotel room, nobody tells them what it is and so their whole floor is 18-year-olds drinking beer. And they walk in here, and it's a little calmer, and they say, "Wow, we did not expect this." And I say "Yeah, it's really a shame," and, you know, they say, "We'll never come back to this town." And to me that's bad, that's heartbreaking.

RUSSO

00:04:34
But then you've got people like Yad Yarkaslip (sp?) who runs a lemonade stand on the Boardwalk. He says 80 percent of his business in June comes from high school graduates.

MR. YID YARKASLIP

00:04:42
They keep us real busy, especially at nighttime. For example, my store can stay open until 4:00 o'clock in the morning because of the Senior Weeks. They buy everything and I think that's the best thing for Ocean City, for Senior Weeks, for the month of June.

SHEIR

00:04:58
So clearly he's very much in favor of the June bugs. I mean, it sounds like he looks forward to Senior Week every year.

RUSSO

00:05:03
Yeah, and people like Yarkaslip may be in luck, too, because Senior Week seems to be an idea that's spreading well beyond the Maryland and Delaware schools that traditionally take part in it. Ryan Gielen, that filmmaker we heard from earlier, says for most kids it's a moment in their lives they're never going to forget.

GIELEN

00:05:18
And it's insane and crazy and confusing and wonderful. And it's just this really unique experience. There's nothing like it.

SHEIR

00:05:28
Insane and crazy and confusing and wonderful. Bryan, it sounds like you're in for quite the summer. Please keep us posted, won't you.

RUSSO

00:05:35
You know I will.

SHEIR

00:05:36
All right. Bryan Russo is the coastal reporter for WAMU 88.5 and the host of "Coastal Connection," on 88.3 in Ocean City, Md. And we want to know, did you or your kids ever come down to Ocean City for Senior Week? If so, we want to hear about your experiences. You can reach us at metro@wamu.org.
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