Ocean City Today

City Council majority pushes fireworks displays to 10:30

Although print ads already have old time, Councilman Gehrig asks for later start
By Katie Tabeling | May 11, 2017

(May 12, 2017) Months after the City Council left the launch time of summer’s beach fireworks at 10 p.m., a council majority on Tuesday voted to move back the fireworks fuse-lighting to 10:30 p.m.

In the final moments of Tuesday’s work session, Councilman John Gehrig made a motion to move back the show based on responses from Boardwalk business owners on the matter in a survey in March. He received backing from Councilman Matt James and support from Council President Lloyd Martin.

“I think the fireworks are a great appeal, and they’ll keep people on the Boardwalk a half-hour longer even if they have kids,” Martin said. “If you look at the survey, it’s split on the time.”

TEAM Productions has been putting on the fireworks show for the past five years as part of a free event package to add to visitor experience. In February, the Tourism Commission recommended moving the firework show to a later hour based on the request from one business and responses from four others that sit on that commission.

However, the council was split on the matter and asked the Ocean City Development Corporation to poll businesses on the boards. Of the 34 businesses that participated, 14 stores preferred the 10 p.m. fuse-lighting and 14 shops pushed for an 11 p.m. start time. The remaining six businesses either provided only comments on the matter rather than taking the survey or pushed for a 10:30 p.m. start time.

The survey also showed that business increased for restaurants and food vendors before and after the fireworks, while retail shop owners reported having patrons walk out to see the show.

After OCDC presented the survey results to Tourism Commission in March, that body tentatively recommended that the council leave the fireworks show at 10 p.m.

Councilman Dennis Dare, who was one of the first naysayers on a latter show, reiterated his stance on the matter. “It’s way too late and we’re a family resort,” he said. “If the merchants don’t want them, then don’t shoot them.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman agreed.

“I heard from families that the kids are coming unglued,” Hartman said. “I think the bigger conversation after we finish this season is if we continue it with the other events that are going on.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight said that during her volunteer shift at the information booth, she often hears complaints on how late the current show already is. She added that the promotional material already reads 10 p.m.

“We can change the Facebook and OCocean [tourism website] easily, but with the visitor guides, it’s all over the place,” she said.

Hartman added that was an issue with him as well, considering that the council never made a vote on keeping to the start time in the first place.

“I don’t know who made that decision to print the ads, since we didn’t have a proper vote. Things should be done to order,” he said.

The final vote showed the council was as divided on changing the firework show time as businesses were. The show was pushed to 10:30 with a 4-3 vote, with Dare, Hartman and Knight dissenting.

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