Spring flings 

That irrepressible season is sprouting all over. We welcome it with a look at the root of spring fever, the revelry of spring break, the spirit of chickens, what it means to be spring loaded and more.


A conversation with Dr. Joseph Ragno, with Physicians Associates of Florida

Q: What is spring fever?
A: First of all, I'm not really sure how we're going to, um, define this. Are you talking about spring fever as in sometimes when spring comes along people feel better or more lively?

Q: Is there any sort of fever in terms of a medical condition that people experience? Perhaps akin to the common cold in winter?
A: I don't think so. It's strange that you ask about spring fever, because the connotation that I've always got from it was that a new season comes along and people have this renewed sense of energy. The winter is over, and they're feeling more alive now that spring is here.

Q: Why do people feel better when spring comes?
A: I think, you know, it's not so much in Florida, because there's not much of a change in seasons, but especially in northern areas, where it's cold and darker than usual, people are just kind of in the dumps. And then as spring comes along, the days get longer, the temperatures warm up and there's, I guess, a renewed sense of energy. With more daylight, there's an actual physiological change in the body. When there's more sunshine and more daylight outside, people in general feel better and less depressed.

Q: What sort of physiological change? Is there a hormonal reaction to sunlight?
A: There's a chemical in the brain called melatonin. Melatonin is increased when it's dark; it helps people sleep. When there is more daylight and more sunshine out, there is less melatonin in the body, so there's actually less of a depressant hormone in the body.

Q: Would you say, then, if the country went on daylight savings time all year long, there would be less depression?
A: Well ... [laughs], not necessarily. It's just that, you know, as the days lengthen, people in general will be less down in the dumps and depressive. But there is no real increase in fevers or temperature rises as spring comes along.


A conversation with Patrick Sullivan, manager of Church Street Entertainment, which operates Big Belly Brewery, Latitudes and Chillers in downtown Orlando

Q: Do people drink more in spring than in other seasons?
A: They definitely drink more in spring.

Q: How much more business do you do?
A: With spring break and folks wanting to visit Florida more, our sales tend to go up, I'd say, 10 to 15 percent.

Q: Any other reasons why people go out more in spring?
A: We've got an open-air deck that is 70 feet above the street, so it's certainly great weather for us. We have a heavy happy hour -- it's a busy time for us.

Q: What's the most popular spring-time drink? Don't say lemonade.
A: Chiller's people tend to enjoy our "suicide." It's got 151 rum, light rum, dark rum, vodka, triple sec and five fruit juices.

Q: I'll have to try that.
A: Yeah, it's fantastic. It's our most popular drink.

Q: Year-round?
A: Year-round, but we seem to sell a lot more of it in March, which is the busiest month of the year for us. People get tired of being cooped up all winter and they want to come out and enjoy great daquiris and a great bar.

Q: Are there any special promotions you do in spring that you may not do the rest of the year?
A: We certainly gear up a little more, but we try to have the same energy and focus year-round. Certainly when there's more folks here, we have to staff up so we can make sure all the folks that come down to see us have a good time.

Q: Compared to Daytona, how do you guys receive the spring-break crowd? Do you see a lot of younger kids coming in ... well, not younger kids, obviously, but 21 and up?
A: We see a large influx of even 21 and up folks down here. Folks from all over the Northeast. Like I said, it's the busiest month of our year. We're busy seven nights a week. It's a great time. I worked four spring breaks here, and each one of them has been awesome.


A conversation with Kyriakos Drymonis, manager of Razzle's nightclub in Daytona Beach

Q: How does spring break business compare with Bike Week?
A: Bike Week, as far as Razzle's goes, we still attract a biking crowd, but for the most part it does a lot better during spring break. You know, the bikers like their biker bars, and spring breakers like their clubs.

Q: Which set of customers is better looking?
A: Better looking? Well, as far as the women go, the spring break crowd is better looking. But, uh, you get some good biker girls, too.

Q: Daytona Beach has a reputation for -- this may sound crude -- people getting drunk and falling off of balconies. Do you see a lot of, well, not a lot of people falling off balconies, but a lot of insane drunkenness?
A: It is a party atmosphere, and some people sometimes tend not to know their limits. As far as the club goes, we try to keep our eye on that. If we see someone who's had too much -- the environment can get pretty hot sometimes, and crowded -- you know, we'll bring them out and give them a glass of water, sit them on our patio and let them chill out for a little bit. If someone falls off a balcony, it's obviously an accident, but some of these kids have to be a little more careful sometimes, that's all.

Q: How do you tell when someone's loaded?
A: Once you can see that their ability to move through the crowd is not as good as it once was. During spring break, we get very crowded, we're usually at capacity. People fall asleep, fall into a corner. You know, we have a policy here just to be kind to everyone. We know spring breakers are just down here to have some fun.

Q: MTV used to have a big spring break party in Daytona. Did you guys get a lot of celebrities in?
A: Oh yeah. We used to get a lot of celebrities. Ed Lover was hosting a lot of their shows, so he was in the club a lot of times. We had the likes of Woody Harrelson, Dennis Rodman, Vince Neil of Motley Crue -- a bunch of people. Every now and then you'll get a celebrity, but not as much, because the MTV crowd has gone elsewhere.

Q: What's the craziest thing you ever saw a celebrity do?
A: I don't know if I can give you an answer on that one. I work mostly at the front door, so when they get in the club, it's kind of beyond my control to see what they're doing inside.

Q: Have you seen any of them stumble out?
A: Well, Vince Neil always stumbled out. But he always stumbled in, too.


A conversation with Joseph Rittenhouse, manager of Let's Dance studio in Casselberry

Q: Is there any way to learn how to put a spring in your step?
A: I'd say yes. You can learn how to put a spring in your step if you learn how to ballroom dance with a partner.

Q: Is there anything I can do to put a spring in my step before I step in your studio?
A: I'd prepare myself for the most part as soon as I walk in the door. The minute I start dancing puts me in a better mood. The idea is to get in the door. A lot of people, when they come in, are very nervous. They don't know what to expect. Then they find out how easy dancing is, and they relax. By the end of their lesson, they're saying, "I enjoyed that."

Q: Do the better dancers have a natural spring in their step?
A: Yes they do. Some people have a little more talent than others. If you've had martial-arts training, or you were in a marching band, or you were in a band that moves around while music is playing -- they generally learn quicker than people who haven't had this training.

Q: Are there more people dancing in the spring?
A: You know what? I would say yes. Spring is the time when people want to go out and do something new. They want to go to clubs and weddings.

Q: Ballroom dancing has become very popular. I see programs on PBS sometimes.
A: It's very, very easy to learn to dance. But to get to that level takes time and patience.

Q: Obviously those ballroom dancers walk around with a spring in their step.
A: I would say they definitely do. Most people I meet who are ballroom dancers are very happy and very upbeat. They enjoy life. I honestly don't meet very many unhappy people who are dancers.


A conversation with Jay Lerew, U.S. Olympic diving coach and head of Team Orlando Diving

Q: Do you know when the spring board was invented?
A: I do know a little bit of history. One of our masters divers -- our old-time divers -- did a little research and found on a tomb in Egypt an actual diver that was diving off a platform into the water. That's basically the first known diving diver that was actually recorded. Basically, it was just done off of [platforms] at the beginning. And then the springboard came into gear, and they were made out of anything from a tree to a piece of wood. They were wood when they were first introduced into the Olympics.

Q: When was that?
A: Gosh, I don't know my history -- it would be in the '20s, easily in the '20s.

Q: How high up is the typical springboard?
A: Well, there's a one-meter springboard and a three-meter springboard, and the rest is all platform.

Q: What's the more common of the two springboards?
A: Well, basically, all the high-school-level kids use the one meter. They don't have three meters in high school. The three meter and the platform are the ones in the Olympic sport, not the one meter.

Q: From that distance, how is it possible not to make a splash when you dive?
A: It's a technique; it almost was swiped from synchronized swimming. It's an underwater technique where you swim and you do a body movement under the water that creates a suction and sucks the water down with you.

Q: Why doesn't the bellyflop get many points? That's always been my favorite.
A: It's not a dive. That's a fun thing -- that's clown diving. There's a whole different ... there's competitive diving, there's clown diving. Believe me, I've done a little bit of both.

Q: When you first start training, do you often land on your back and get that "oh, God" reaction like someone just struck you with a cat-o-nine-tails?
A: You're gonna take some heat on the springboard, but if you can't handle springboard, three-meter, you don't belong in the sport. You're a wuss. The 10-meter, if you take a hit up there, you're gonna be spitting some blood. It's a little more serious. You can internally injure yourself and stuff. That's just part of the game. You get up and go again.

Q: What's the toughest dive for a beginner? What's the first thing you teach?
A: The first thing we teach is the positions, the jumping. The plain head-first entry is probably the toughest thing to teach them, because people aren't used to going in upside down into the water.


A conversation with Ruth Cooper, 74, who has volunteered at the Beardall Senior Center

Q: Could you tell me what a spring chicken is?
A: I'm a spring chicken. [Laughs.] Anybody between 20 and 70 is a spring chicken.

Q: Anybody?
A: More or less. Sure.

Q: How do you become a spring chicken?
A: You've got to think positively. You've got to think young things and not keep negative things in your mind. Let's face it, one decides to live their life in a certain way. Take me, for instance. I came from a big city [New York] and never learned to drive. I never learned to drive, and that was my choice. Now that my husband is gone, my choices to get around are limited. But I don't sit around and cry that I can't get out. That's just the way it is. I don't have access to a car. It's overcoming the adversity in your life. That's the way I'd think about it.

Q: When you were a schoolgirl, did you and your friends think of yourselves as spring chickens?
A: That may have been, but I didn't consider myself to be a spring chicken. I think of a spring chicken as an old lady still acting young. She looks good and has kept herself up. I don't like to go out without wearing makeup, for instance. I don't wear a lot. But I want to keep myself up. It's very important.

Q: So being a spring chicken is a combination of physical beauty and mental power?
A: Yes. You don't want to be pessimistic about too many things. Don't let too many things get you down for too long.

Q: Anything else?
A: Please add that laughter is the best medicine. If you can laugh and keep others laughing, you can keep young.


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