Ocean City Today

Resort considers changes to fireworks, other free events

By Greg Ellison | Feb 15, 2018
Source: File Photo

(Feb. 16, 2018) An earlier start time for Beach Fireworks and modifications to the Boardwalk Beach Lights display are among changes under discussion as Ocean City finalizes plans for its array of no-cost value-added events this summer.

Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller highlighted recommendations for specific improvements for the 2018 season, while also explaining the genesis of value added events in Ocean City and discussing future developments, during the Tourism Commission meeting on Monday.

“It started in the summer of 2012 as a way of offering free events to draw tourists when Americans weren’t traveling very far and weren’t coming for extended durations,” he said.

Miller reviewed the current summer slate, beginning with Sundaes in the Park, which attracts families each week to Northside Park for live music, kids’ activities, live animal displays, fireworks and, of course, ice cream sundaes.

This year, Miller said Sundaes in the Park is planned to start a week earlier, on June 17, and take place every Sunday until Labor Day.

“We’re also going to be tweaking the patron experience on site for better interaction and flow,” he said.

Time adjustments for beach fireworks, which take place each Monday and Tuesday after the Fourth of July near the Boardwalk by Dorchester and Caroline streets, was also broached by Miller.

“We’re looking at returning beach fireworks to a start time of 10 p.m. instead of the current start time of 10:30 p.m.,” he said.

Regardless of the launch schedule, Miller said the event is a crowd pleaser.

“You can’t go wrong with an explosion of color in the sky,” he said.

Commission member Todd Ferrante wondered if the earlier timeframe, which was the start time prior to 2017, would prove advantageous for families with children.

“How late can you keep all your kids out to see the fireworks?,” he said.

City Councilwoman Mary Knight said tourist feedback last year was overwhelmingly against the later start time, while noting many parents saw clear advantages to a 10 p.m. display.

“People told me that at 10 they stay [and then] they go home put the kids to bed and still have a half hour to drink wine,” she said.

Enhancements to beach lights, introduced in 2017 as 100 Nights of Lights, including RGB LED displays and revamped musical presentations, were discussed by Miller and Bob Rothermel with TEAM Productions.

Last year, searchlights were set up a dozen wooden stands on either side of the Caroline Street comfort station to provide a “passive recreation experience without stopping people in their tracks,” Rothermel said.

“The whole idea was to create an awareness that the town is open for business,” he said. “What do you do when you see searchlights anywhere? You look to see where they’re coming from.”

The display runs on a 20-minute cycle, highlighted by a three-minute musical segment, when lights shift in rhythm.

“This year what we propose to do is add LED lights on the stand itself,” Rothermel said. “We can outline the front of the stand so it becomes a little bit more of a show during that three-minute time period.”

Miller also discussed changes for the OC Beach Dance Party, which last year replaced the Concerts on the Beach event with a combination of DJ music and live bands.

“This year we’re going to try an all DJ format,” he said.

In addition to starting the weekly Tuesday Beach Dance Party a week earlier on July 3, Miller also envisions incorporating the beach lights spotlights.

“We’re going to have those lights on the ground, thereby doing a color wash on the beach,” he said. “It will expand that dance area the length of the 12 lights.”

Additional summer value added events Miller mentioned included free movies on the beach, family beach olympics and Sunset Park party nights, which is produced in conjunction with the Ocean City Development Corporation.

“It’s the south-side equivalent to Sundaes in the Park, but we do have beer and wine down there,” he said.

Although primarily focused on summer, Halloween oriented events have had a positively impact on fall tourism, Miller said.

“There are people that come year after year for the Howl-O-Ween Pet Parade and the Great Pumpkin Race,” he said. “It has overnight stay potential.”

Knight said that after surveying pet costumers during the 2017 parade, the majority was in town specifically for the event.

“We’re bringing people in from outside the area … and I don’t think they were here just for the day,” she said. “It’s bringing good business into town.”

Miller also told the commission that the winter season offerings could be expanded. Currently, those include the annual Christmas Parade and the Ocean City Downtown Association’s Light up Downtown campaign.

“You’re going to see a lot of spinoffs from Light up Downtown as we slowly start to grow the experience of Ocean City in the holiday season,” Miller said.

In terms of events this summer, the commission agreed to forward the proposed upgrades for beach lights and the revised beach fireworks schedule to the City Council for approval.

While not direct revenue producers, the value added events meet secondary objectives, such as promoting a family-friendly environment and engaging younger parents, Miller said.

“We want to bring in new people or move people around to areas they might not normally go,” he said. “Our towns’ reputation and growth are still the fundamental reason we do value added events.”

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