OCEAN CITY – Over the past month, Ocean City has seen an influx of June Bugs swarming the town, and in keeping tradition with the past, the recent high school graduates exhibited both positive and negative behaviors. One positive outcome this year was the continued success of the Play It Safe Program.
The Play It Safe Program occurs every year during the month of June, providing fun, alcohol-free events for the senior week celebrants to participate in.
The mission of Play It Safe has remained the same since its inception – “encourage high school graduates to make informed, healthy choices while having responsible fun without the use of alcohol and other drugs.”
This year the Play If Safe Program not only achieved its mission but also exceeded expectations. With roughly 12,700 graduates participating, this year surpassed the number of participants of years passed.
“We were really pleased with this years turnout.” Donna Greenwood, Chairwoman of the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Committee, said.
Although organizers have not received their official count yet, Greenwood knows this year’s program exceeded last year’s numbers.
Events offered this year included a beach dance, karaoke, windsurfing and kayak relays, bowling, miniature golf, volleyball, three-on-three basketball tournaments, pancake eating contests, sandcastle contests and much more.
All the events are well organized, free of charge to all recent high-school graduates, alcohol free and full of fun and prizes, according to Greenwood.
Greenwood said it’s difficult to choose what the most popular event was this year, but concluded that volleyball, karaoke and basketball were big favorites.
Some new events were introduced this year, including the kick-off dance on the beach and the free reggae concert. Greenwood explained that the committee partnered with the city this year to provide the concert. Greenwood said there was not as big of a turnout as they had expected. She attributed the low numbers of both the dance and the concert to the Friday evening time slot.
“Friday is really the least popular of the nights,” Greenwood said. “There’s not as many people as the weekday nights.”
Greenwood feels the graduates are either arriving to town Friday night or wrapping up their week, resulting in a decreased turnout.
The rest of the events met with great success with more than 700 grads showing up for the first night of karaoke.
When asked what makes Play It Safe events such a success, Greenwood joked, “I think it’s because it’s free.”
Greenwood said that the free events provide another option for the June Bugs to enjoy while on vacation in Ocean City.
Greenwood also attributes some of the success to the wristbands that the city gives the recent grads, allowing them to ride the bus for free all week long.
“It keeps them safe and it keeps us safe,” she said.
The generosity of the town and everyone involved was another factor that Greenwood mentioned.
“We are so fortunate that the people in this town have been so generous to us over the years,” she said.
This year’s Play It Safe website also met success with more hits this year than the past three years combined. Greenwood attributed the website success to the frequently updated pictures of the events, allowing both the recent graduates and their parents to see their successes.
As for next year, Greenwood hopes the success continues and will soon begin planning.
“We’re always looking for something new to do,” she said, adding that the committee would like to continue to utilize the beautiful venue at Sunset Park, which is located off Philadelphia Avenue in downtown Ocean City on the bay.
Ocean City Police Spokesman Barry Neeb was also pleased with the continued success of Play It Safe.
“I really just can’t safe enough about Play It Safe,” he said.
Neeb went on to stress the importance of the Play It Safe events and all that it has to offer for the June Bugs.
“It’s hard to quantify prevention,” Neeb said, explaining that there is no way to measure just how many deaths, accidents or additional troubles that programs like Play It Safe prevents.
As for the month of June Bug madness, Neeb said that it was about average and that although there were the typical June Bug problems and the tragedies of the drowning and the pedestrian fatality, that there were still successes in the June Bug month as well.
Neeb acknowledges there is a dramatic increase in incidents and silliness, largely attributed to the rush of the June Bugs, but he said there are many young people who are not heard from, have a good time and stay out of trouble.
“We all pay the price for prejudices,” Neeb said, adding that June Bugs are an example of that.
Neeb said that it’s unfortunate that the good kids who enjoy their Senior Week in Ocean City get grouped with the ones who find trouble all week long.