It's hot. The grass is green. Blossoms cover the fruit trees. A calm breeze blows through the palms.
And a solid wall of teenagers lines both sides of St. George Boulevard.This weekend is spring break for thousands of Utah high school students who have come in droves to the place that's becoming known as the Fort Lauderdale of southern Utah.
There's no way to count them all, but it is estimated that 10,000 teenagers have descended on St. George for a weekend of fun away from home and school. Most of the visitors came from along the Wasatch Front.
They brought their best and most outrageous summer clothes, their sportiest cars, their suntan lotion - and their parents' credit cards.
"It's just the thing to do," said Lisa Ellingson, a 17-year-old Cottonwood High School student. "About half of our school is here."
"We come because everybody comes," said Kristen Youngberg, an 18-year-old from Viewmont High School in Bountiful.
The motels were mostly full by Thursday night, and a steady stream of pedestrians strolled the sidewalks while cars and trucks that had their windows bulging with bare arms and legs cruised up and down the boulevard until the wee hours of the morning.
By Friday evening, a solid wall of teenagers milled along St. George Boulevard, shoulder to shoulder.
People pass each other on the boulevard enough times that they start looking familiar after a while, said Paul Ellis, 16, a student at Cottonwood High School.
They came to swim and to soak up the sunshine. But mostly they came to see the other teenagers.
The boys to see the girls and the girls to see the boys.
"It's the hair spray," Ellis said. "Light a match and I don't know what would happen."
And the girls easily see through the boys' attempts at looking and acting casual. "They all walk around with their arms out like this," said 17-year-old Kristen Vincent while holding both arms out like a gunfighter waiting to draw. "They are going out of their way to look studly."
Ellingson guessed the girls spent $80 to $100 on clothes and other necessities for the trip. "They spent all last week packing. They bought a new bottle of hair spray just for this trip."
The Four Seasons Inn, situated about midpoint on the boulevard, is "teen central" with almost all 96 available rooms booked for the weekend with high school students. "We've got 12 guys in our room," said another student from Viewmont High. "We shoot (baskets) to see who gets the bed." Everybody else finds a spot on the floor.
The students occupy rooms at motels throughout the city and also take up lodging in Mesquite, which is about 45 minutes away.
But crowding inside the motel rooms is not a problem most of the time - since being out on the street with everyone else is the primary reason for being here.
In fact, about the only real use for the rooms is from the girls - who duck in to change outfits several times each afternoon. Other lesser important uses are as a place to dress for a swim or catch a snack, or as a cool spot to plan social strategy and decide whether to eat at McDonalds or at the grocery store delicatessen.
Mike Dearden, sales and marketing director at the Four Seasons, said he tries to discourage conventions at the inn during the Easter weekend when all of the students are expected for spring break. Non-students who make reservations are also warned that things may get a little noisy during the weekend. "That cuts out about three-fourths of the complaints," he said.
"Is it always like this?" asked a couple with children that was surrounded by noisy teens as they were checking into a room.
Dearden said the students began reserving their rooms three months ago. The motel has been booked for three weeks.
The students who pay cash for their rooms are required to secure their reservation with a credit card. That isn't a problem because an overwhelming majority of the teenage customers show up with one of their parents' credit cards in their purse or wallet, he said.
And overall, the students are no more destructive than adult conventioneers, he said.
The conversation on a police radio channel Friday morning gave some insight on the previous night's activity: "The motel manager called and said (to cancel the request for police assistance); the mother came in and paid for the chair."
Dearden expected 4,000 to 5,000 kids per night would pay $4 to enter the dances at the Four Seasons on Friday and Saturday nights. The motel hasn't had a dance during spring break for the past two years at the city's request.
City-sponsored dances at the Dixie Center several blocks away bombed in the past, Dearden said, because they were too far from the boulevard. "Kids want to be where the traffic is."
Police officers patrol every block in cars and on motorcycles, constantly issuing citations for minor traffic infractions.
Ellis said he got a ticket last year for stepping off the curb into the street. "The cops do get a little out of hand," he said, but that didn't stop him and his friends from coming back.
St. George police Lt. Jim Raburn said Thursday night went fairly smoothly. There were a number of alcohol-related arrests, and citations for seat belt violations were common as many of the cars cruising the boulevard had more passengers than seats.
A motorcycle accident Thursday night and a three-car crash directly in front of the Four Seasons about 5 p.m. Friday, which sent the passenger of a convertible to the hospital, were unfortunate reminders of some of the hazards of cruising in heavy traffic.
Dearden said the most exhausting experience he had was driving a limousine two years ago for kids who were paying him $50 an hour just to cruise the boulevard. "I've never had an experience like that. At 2 (a.m.) they were going to take up a collection so they could cruise another couple of hours, but I was beat."