There are many times when you live in a resort town you have to be understanding, patient and put yourself in a tourist’s mindset. If you live here, you know what I mean. That’s why you understand the right-hand lane, next to the bus lane, is always stacked with vehicles on a summer days, while the other two lanes sit empty for the most part. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s just the way it is and locals know to avoid that lane until you need to turn. Along those lines, it was interesting to learn this week about one family’s astonishment over the 14th Street library no longer being around. Staying in the Harbour Island community, the family apparently for years has frequented the old library to use the computer and check out books. When they went to the library last week, they were shocked to see the building was nowhere to be found. Of course, locals know the library was demolished earlier this year and that a new state-of-the-art branch is now open on 100th Street. This problem of confusion could be easily avoided with a small sign informing visitors a new library has been erected a few miles up the road. It’s understandable to assume everyone knows there’s a new library in town, but this example proves it’s not necessarily true.
The fireworks curse continues in Ocean City and has now reached four years. After three consecutive years of fireworks drama, the town’s 4th of July this year was anything but smooth, once again. In 2005, a mysterious haze made the display a complete dud because the thick smog-like air precluded any sort of glimpse of the fireworks. The following year, 2006, a thunderstorm forced city officials to delay the fireworks until later in the night when most vacationers were back in their rented units, and last year high winds forced them to be canceled and fired the next day on July 5. Last Friday night, an approaching thunderstorm, or “squall in the yonder” as my pop-pop used to say, led town officials to launch the fireworks display an hour early, much to the surprise of most people in town. This decision met mixed reviews with some applauding the decision to set them off earlier rather than later in the evening, while others questioned why they were not simply postponed until Saturday night. Of course, it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback here.
Marylanders love to gamble. In a time when most businesses are struggling in the face of decreasing revenues and soaring expenditures, the Maryland Lottery, essentially a huge money-making business for the state, is rocking and surpassing its own expectations. In fiscal year 2008, which ended June 30, the lottery’s sales exceeded the $1.673 billion mark, raising $529 million in revenue for the state. It represented the 11th straight year the Lottery has surpassed the previous year’s sales. If slots are approved in November’s referendum, it will be interesting to see what kind of impact they have on the Lottery’s bottom line. It will be years before that’s known, but I am curious if some folks would prefer the odds in a “slotsino” over the Lottery.
Say what you want about calculating crowd totals by wastewater volume, but the fact is Ocean City’s demoflush formula is a viable way of comparing figures from years past. Working under the assurance the formula has not been tweaked over the years, it’s reasonable to look at comparable weekends and determine if more people were in the resort or not. That being said, it looks like this year’s 4th of July weekend was one of the best in recent years. As a matter of fact, the 326,000 or so visitors reported on average over the three-day weekend is the highest since 2004 when 328,000-plus came to town. The last time the 4th fell on a Friday was in 2003 when more than 342,000 were in town. From a purely observational standpoint, Ocean City seemed packed all weekend. The crowds seemed to start slowly rolling in on Thursday and were here in full force by mid-day Friday. Traffic was thick all weekend and that’s an understatement. The businesses I happened to frequent were jamming through the weekend. The inevitable exodus took place Sunday afternoon and evening and was confirmed by the $59 room rate prices advertised on one downtown hotel’s marquee at 6 p.m.