MARGATE -- As usual on Memorial Day weekend, the Margate Wawa was lit.
"Margate Wawa closed. Club Wa just opened," tweeted one local teen, apparently mocking the annual Pennsylvania and Cherry Hill shoobie kid tradition of hanging outside the Margate Wawa on Washington and Ventnor Avenues as if it were a nightclub.
In a town jammed with visitors to launch the summer season this weekend, Margate police had their hands full — with juveniles from out of town.
"There's not one of them from Margate," said Capt. Ken Bergeron of the Margate Police, citing 12 arrests of age 20 or younger for alcohol, marijuana, and fighting. Seven were juveniles, five others under 20, he said.
He said a fight involving 300 teens broke out on the Washington Avenue beach, home of Lucy the Elephant, at 2 p.m. Saturday and led to three arrests for assault and disorderly conduct.
Additionally, a police officer was hit with a Gatorade bottle.
"There were so many people fighting, they had to get help from Ventnor and Longport," Bergeron said. "They're really disrespectful."
Hundreds of teens congregated on the sidewalks and at the entrance to the Wawa for hours Saturday night, but Bergeron said there's not much Margate police can do to disperse them. Curfew laws have proven problematic to enforce, he said.
"As long as they're not blocking the sidewalk, there's not much we can do," Bergeron said. "Wawa has to call and let us know. As long as they are not blocking people from walking by, there's not too much we can do. You come and they move. We leave, they come back. If we move them along after that, they go down to the beach.
"It's hard to post somebody there the whole time, especially during a holiday weekend," he said.
Noting that Ventnor does not have a similar crowd issue at its Wawas, Bergeron noted that the more affluent Margate draws more out-of-town families, whose parents let their kids go by bicycle around the town until late at night.
He noted that there are often more serious crimes reported weeks later — assaults, rapes, and he urged parents to not be lured by the idea that somehow their kids are safer because it's the Shore.
"You don't know what's going to happen to your child," he said.
As for adults, there were three arrests in Margate, all for driving while intoxicated, he said.
Bergeron said Margate police have noticed a change in the last five years, with high school kids coming to Margate, getting into fights, stealing things off the beaches.
"It's all juveniles from out of town," he said.
Locals have noticed too.
"I have never seen so many teenagers in Margate!!" one posted on Facebook.
"Two Cents Plain with a bunch of 15 year olds," wrote another Margate resident on Facebook, posting a selfie at 11:19 p.m. Saturday at the ice cream parlor across from the Wawa. He estimated that there were 150 kids (and their fidget spinners) on the four corners.
Another local noted the "insane number of teens" around the Wawa and the CVS, also at the Washington Avenue corner. "I know it's almost summer but this looked like the kids were waiting for concert doors to open."
Margate Mayor Mike Becker called the situation "way out of hand."
"We welcome all visitors, but we can't tolerate this behavior," Becker said. "It was a mess. This is probably the third year we've had the same thing over Memorial Day weekend: total lack of respect for other people.
"Margate has to find a way to control that in the future," he said. "I don't know how we do that but we have to do that."
Matt Marino, manager of Heritage Surf Shop across from the Wawa, said Tuesday the weekend crowds out on Ventnor Avenue were less worrisome than the brawling on the beach.
"The beach seemed to be like a whole different deal," Marino said. "Tons and tons of kids, high school kids, too young to be out on the beach drinking and fighting. A lot of families going to that beach, tripping out over that many kids there."
The manager of the Margate Wawa referred any questions to the Wawa corporate offices. Spokewoman Lori Bruce e-mailed that the situation was "most likely an isolated incident. In any incident of this nature, we would always work with authorities to get the situation under control."
And this video, via Instagram.