Ocean City Today

H2Oi canceled, but still happened

By Greg Ellison | Dec 28, 2017
Source: File Photo Despite the H2Oi car show being postponed, several car enthusiasts planned online that they would come to Ocean City anyway, and showed off their H2Oi pride on an underground Facebook page.

(Dec. 29, 2017) The infamous H2O International Volkswagen/Audi rally was canceled this year, but participants came anyway and wreaked havoc.

The car show for water-cooled imported European cars had been held at Fort Whaley campground in Whaleyville in the last weekend of September, and always resulted in Ocean City’s streets being inundated with Volkswagens and Audis as a byproduct. Participants typically cruise up and down what they call “the strip,” or Coastal Highway.

This year’s event was postponed because Fort Whaley was rezoned from B-2 General Business District to A-2 agriculture, which doesn’t allow commercial uses.

“We want to continue to offer the best in a show experience, and with changes in venue options and a diminishing timeline, it is necessary to delay the event until 2018,” an online statement said. “I personally cannot thank you enough for your continued support. I look forward to seeing you next year, when we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of H2Oi the right way!”

Despite the cancellation, members of the Ocean City Council predicted, correctly, that car enthusiasts would descend on the resort. Law enforcement agencies that agreed to work with Ocean City Police were the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office, Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland Transportation Authority.

But even so, police responded to more than 2,700 calls that weekend, and most of them involved large unruly crowds attempting to provoke a fight. Several officers suffered minor injuries while making arrests.

Those injured included a Worcester County Sheriff deputy and an Ocean City officer who apparently were intentionally hit by a car, driven by Antonio Ambrosino, 18, of Seaford Delaware. He was allegedly trying to avoid arrest for marijuana possession.

While Ambrosino was charged with various counts of attempted murder, most arrests were for disorderly conduct, open container, assault and other charges.

Twenty-eight crashes were reported last weekend, one of which involved a pedestrian. An Ocean City Police patrol officer struck an unidentified pedestrian Friday night when he made a left turn on Coastal Highway near 56th Street.

The 26-year-old man was treated on the scene and later flown to Peninsula Regional Medical Center via Maryland State Police Trooper 4 helicopter. He was released that night with minor injuries. A preliminary investigation showed that the Police SUV had a green light and the pedestrian was legally in the crosswalk.

But as much as city officials wanted to eliminate the events, or at least its effects on the resort, they could not find a way to accomplish that.

“I just don’t know what the answer is at this point,” Councilman Wayne Hartman said on Oct. 2. “It’s not a secret the work [the police have done] and it wasn’t enough.”

In November, members of the Police Commission revealed plans to control car events, and that eliminating H2Oi was a priority. This plan was made during a closed session on Oct. 13.

Immediate actions, the commission recommended, included sending a written request to H2Oi promoter to move the event from Worcester/Wicomico Counties by Dec. 31, creating a “special event zone” with increased fines per state legislation and installing speed bumps during H2Oi and expanding the camera surveillance on Coastal Highway.

The council backtracked on the plan, when it was apparent that these suggestions were deeply unpopular with the public. Delmarva Condominium Managers Association President Joe Groves at a packed council session on Nov. 6 warned the council against canceling events before studying the problems.

“I rented to some people who came for H2Oi, and I asked a group of 16 people why they came down. They said, ‘it pissed me off [that it was canceled] and we want to make them know we’re pissed.’ The last thing we want is to piss people off,” Groves said. “We want them part of the solution.”

Mayor Rick Meehan announced that he would form a task force to address all motor vehicle events.

“The town has grown up and changed, and we have to [these events] adapt to that change if they’re going to stay. It’s going to be difficult,” Mayor Rick Meehan said on Nov. 6. “But we all have to be realistic and approach these changes with an open mind — and I mean everyone.”


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