Special Events Critical To Tourism

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It’s almost a cliché these days to say September is the best month to live and visit around these parts. There will be no argument to the contrary here, and the fact is people are becoming increasingly aware of it because there are more reasons to visit.

There were 200,000-plus people in Ocean City last weekend, according to demoflush estimates. Two weekends ago, it was about the same amount of people in the resort. It’s no mistake the crowds are being driven largely by special events. Two weeks ago, it was Delmarva Bike Week, which falls on the calendar where there was once a void, and last week it was Sunfest and the Berlin Fiddlers Convention.

Fall is an ideal time to be in the area for a number of different reasons – the beach and waterways are sparse, prices to vacation are cheap, the weather is magnificent and it’s the prime golf season. All these combine to make Ocean City an appealing destination, but we believe the main reason behind the growth of September and October is the special events offered on a weekly basis.

There is a noteworthy event capable of attracting people to the area planned for nearly every weekend from now through the holidays and that’s a driving motivation to get people to the resort area on the weekends. All these events result in Ocean City being a destination and make fall extremely successful from a business standpoint.

We believe the goal should be to have an appealing special event each weekend of the year. It may not be realistic, but it should be a priority for the public and private sectors. Officials in the local tourism associations are well aware of the critical need for popular events to dot the calendar.

Ocean City’s elected officials seem to be on the same page to a degree. They were gaga this week over a proposed air show concept for the area to replace the defunct OC Fly-In event held annually in October over the Columbus Day weekend. An air show will appeal to some folks, while likely turn off others, but that’s how these events are.

Some people look forward to Bike Week all year, while others detest it. Some adore the town-sponsored Sunfest, while others think it’s a bore. The same can be said for Cruisin’, Art’s Alive, the Seaside Boat Show and other conventions and shows held throughout the year. That’s the way it goes, but the fact is people come to town when there is something to do. It’s not a popular thing to say but there are a handful of weeks when there’s little reason to come to the beach. That needs to be addressed, and it will take creativity, and, of course, money.

Perhaps there is no better example than New Year’s weekend, the highlight perhaps of the winter season along with Presidents Day Weekend. On New Year’s Eve in Ocean City, the bars that are still open for business are jammed and that’s essentially been the case for years. However, the Penguin Swim and the town’s open house at City Hall have made New Year’s Day an added attraction. That’s the epitome of public and private events making the town an attraction over the last decade or so. Before these events, it was just a party weekend. It’s much more now.

At next month’s tourism summit, marketing Ocean City will be a huge point of discussion. While that’s critical and a future direction needs to be charted, it’s our hope there’s some time spent talking about ways to create special events for nearly all the weeks of the year. They work and they get people talking about Ocean City, create a media buzz and have the capability of growing quickly.

The recipe for success in the shoulder season is weekend events because schools are in session and parents are at work. However, in the summer, it may be worth considering offering additional special events during the week to get people back here on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s well-known the weekends in the summer are jammed, but the weekdays are suffering. Some successful attempts have been made to hold events during the week in the summer, but there need to be more offered, especially during the slower weeks. Discussing ways to make this happen need to be included in tourism talks.

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