Ocean City Today
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Jersey bound: H2Oi outta here

Promoter takes his car rally on road after skipping last year’s OC event
By Greg Ellison | Apr 26, 2018
Photo by: Greg Ellison Police Capt. Mike Colbert, right, and Chief Ross Buzzuro review details about recently approved state legislation to enhance law enforcement efforts to curtail rowdy behavior during annual car and motorcycle gatherings during the Motor Events Task Force meeting at the convention center on 40th Street on Wednesday.

(April 27, 2018) The H2O International car rally that has rolled through the resort area for the last 20 years or so instead will be rolling up the coast this year to Atlantic City, New Jersey, following a year off in 2017 as relations between the event and the resort went off the road.

The announcement that the locally-promoted event will shift locations came Wednesday afternoon, when Mayor Rick Meehan told members of the resort’s Motor Events Task Force that one of the reasons for its existence would be moving on.

Meehan said following a social media post earlier this week from the H2Oi promoter Jay Shoup of Ocean Pines, news broke about an effort to relocate the event.

“What I can tell you with certainty, the official H2Oi event in October will be held in Atlantic City,” he said. “They’ve already signed a contract with the Showboat Hotel.”

Meehan said he believed the rally’s growth in recent years had to be frustrating for Shoup, who repeatedly tried to distance his small gathering from the excesses of thousands of hangers-on who were not part of the event, but flooded the town when it took place.

“I think they believe the other site will be more compatible … and better for their attendees,” he said. “I think that will go a long way to help relieve some of the problems and the residual impact.”

Although H2Oi flew under the radar for most of its existence, the nonparticipant crowd it attracted became so unruly that the General Assembly, at local officials’ behest, passed legislation that gives local law enforcement more authority to muffle bad behavior.

Other car events also had their problems, but residents, businesses and officials declared they had had it after last year’s debacle, when thousands of small car enthusiasts went wild, even though H2Oi organizers had cancelled their annual rally at Fort Whaley Campground.

Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said the state legislation sponsored by Sen. Jim Mathias (D-38) and Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (R-38C) to permit the establishment of “Special Event Zones,” with reduced speeds and increased fines, was signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in time for the first car event next month, Cruisin’ Ocean City.

Buzzuro said after holding preliminary meetings with the State Highway Administration and Ocean City Public Works that additional planning would take place between the various agencies.

“We will work in conjunction with the SHA and public works to establish special event zones,” he said.

Speed limits between 33rd and 62nd streets will be reduced to 25 mph, with the entirety of Ocean City being declared a special event zone, Buzzuro said.

“It will be all of Ocean City, but with an emphasis on Coastal Highway from 33rd to 62nd Street as top priority, as well as locations on the top end [of town],” he said. “I’m not going to give everything away, but we’re going to have locations that we have identified to be problematic.”

Meehan said now that the legislation has become law, the next step involves educating the public.

“We need to come up with one message, [and] if we can have that all over town, I think that shows everybody we’re here to try and sustain the event but keep it safe,” he said.

Bob Rothermel, whose TEAM Productions helps stage Cruisin’, expressed gratitude for inclusion with the task force.

“We’re appreciative to have a seat at the table,” he said. “We’ve always said we would welcome state or local assistance.”

Since the task force began meeting in December, Rothermel said judging by social media comments, Cruisin’ participants understand a change is in order.

“The message is getting out [because] in past years we have been sold out by now,” he said. “You’re going to get a couple of the knuckleheads, but Facebook posts have been mostly positive.”

Rothermel said to alleviate issues stemming from the crush of cars and spectators in Ocean City for Cruisin’, a number of alternative activities are scheduled off the island.

“We’re aiming to spread activities around … to get them out of Ocean City,” he said.

This year the US 13 Dragway in Delmar will sponsor “Taking It To the Strip,” on Friday and Saturday to provide participants an opportunity to show off their rides, Rothermel said.

Rothermel is also working with Trimper’s Rides to establish a family fun night for Cruisin’ weekend, and Ocean Downs will hold a 1940s-era pin up contest with live music on Friday evening.

Police Capt. Mike Colbert said the Maryland Department of Natural Resources would be among the allied agencies helping write tickets this year.

“We’re going to try some innovative things with the state police,” he said.

Colbert said the state police would have radar stop teams on Route 50 entering the resort.

Colbert also highlighted an upcoming Coffee with Cops event, scheduled for May 15 at 8 a.m. at the Starbucks on 17th Street.

“That’s an opportunity for the community to come by and give direct questions to the chief or I,” he said. “ We also will have road officers there as well.”

Buzzuro said a joint announcement with state highway would be forthcoming, with the intent to establish special event zones starting on Tuesday, May 15 until Sunday, May 20.

“We want people to slow it down and behave themselves,” he said.

Meehan added, “We want local people living in Ocean City to be aware so they’re not the ones getting double fines,” he said. “Some are going to learn it the hard way.”

 

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