Memorial Day Weekend honors those who died while serving in the United States military, also it’s observed as the beginning of the summer season, but on Miami Beach it means more than just that. Here on South Beach the Memorial Day Weekend is also known as the Urban Beach Week - one of the most entertaining Hip Hop weekend events worldwide. It is an annual gathering celebrated on the last Monday in the month of May. The Urban Beach Week is considered as one of the largest Urban Festivals that caters towards Hip Hop Community.
Approximately 350,000 participants trek to South Beach from all over the country for a period of 4 days of crazy partying and outrages entertainment.
Sounds like fun doesn’t it… Well not so much for Miami Beach residents.
The event mainly attacks Hip-Hop influenced younger crowd not only from South Florida, but from other states as well.
First time I experience this Urban Beach Week happening was years ago when I first moved to Miami Beach as a young professional in my mid 20th. Few days before the actual arrival of the party mob, I noticed that stores were getting a bit crowded and people were buying everything of the shelves as if they were preparing for a hurricane. I asked my neighbor, who was also packing her ice-box so she wouldn’t have to leave her house for 3-4 days, what was going on. She explained, but I wanted to see for myself.
The crowd starts to arrive on Thursday before the Memorial Day, so it’s an extra long weekend. The Miami Beach police joins forces with police departments from surrounding cities and counties. The streets get blocked off with barriers, which creates a nightmare of traffic not only on the beach itself, but coming to and leaving the Miami Beach in every direction.
And then the night comes…
Walking on Washington Ave, Collins Ave, and Ocean Drive I felt as if I were the only white dude on the streets of Miami Beach. I was actually getting not so friendly looks and stares by the “guests” who literally took the party to the streets - sitting on top of cars and sidewalks, drinking out of one bottle being passed around…
Of course cops were on every intersection making sure that the crowd was moving and things stayed relatively safe. The task which is very much impossible to achieve with these odds. The sea of people strolling the streets was overwhelming which made it super difficult to control. Girls had their asses grabbed by strangers. The cloud of weed smoke could get anyone high just by staying on the street. And now, as if it were some sick “tradition”, each year at least one or two people get shot here on Miami Beach during Urban Beach Weekend.
The morning after, streets are filled with trash. Broken bottles, paper plates, beer cans, used condoms, unfinished food, papers, flyers; you name it – piled up ankles-deep.
Over the years local business owners have been complaining, and asking the city officials to implement strict measurements to keep the city of Miami Beach safe during the Urban Week not only for the residents’ sake, but the tourist and visitors who come unaware what is awaiting them during this period of time.
Needless to say that the event is not in any way sponsored by the city and there is no organizer for the event either.
A lot of businesses are closed for this weekend, because it is not safe and they make no money. Restaurant workings, whose main income comes from tips, are left tip-less, because the majority of the Urban Beach guests are not exactly what you would call “generous tippers”. Hotels are overcrowded with more than allowed guests per room. Boutiques have to hire more security.
But not everyone thinks that the Urban Beach Week is bad for business. Liquored stores are making good sales during this time. Also tattoo salons are pretty busy. A friend of mine who owns a successful tattoo studio on South Beach raves about how much business they get during the Urban Beach Week.
The bottom line is this – Miami Beach is an awesome place to party, no doubt about that, but I think we all have to take responsibility and make sure it stays that way so everyone can enjoy it. Just because one does not call Miami Beach his or her home, does not mean that it gives them a right to treat this city as a dumping ground literally and figuratively.