OCEAN CITY – “I thought it was wonderful.”
Those five words, expressed by Army veteran John J. Sauer Sr., essentially sum up the majority opinion of last weekend’s 2nd Annual Ocean City Air Show.
Approximately 260,000 people were in town last weekend, according to demoflush estimates, a significant 30,000-plus-head increase over last year’s crowds during the same weekend.
“It was the largest sustained crowd I have ever seen on the Boardwalk. By sustained, I mean three or four hours at a time,” Meehan said. “It was comparable to the Fourth of July, but on the Fourth everybody is moving, on their way to some place to watch the fireworks or what have you … [Last weekend] the sea wall, the Boardwalk, the decks, the beach, everywhere was just very crowded. It was a great crowd and everyone seemed to get caught up in everything that was going on.”
Meehan said even on Saturday when weather suspended the air show early there was an excitement in the area that he does not recall ever feeling.
“Everybody understood. There was no complaining about it. Those things happen … but then to have it on Sunday and close the show with the Thunderbirds and God Bless America playing over the loud speakers, let me tell you, if that doesn’t get to you on Flag Day, I don’t know what will. It was a phenomenal moment.”
There were numerous touching moments, according to Meehan, not everyone in the crowd was able to witness. One in particular he discussed at this week’s Mayor and Council meeting involved Sauer, a retired U.S. Army veteran who lives in the area. Meehan said he was approached by a man who mentioned his young son would like to get an autograph from a man who fought on D-Day, the 65th anniversary of which was celebrated this month.
“He was referring to John Sauer. I went over and got John Sauer and told him ‘this young man would like your autograph’ because he knows and recognizes you were there and fought that battle. John had tears in his eyes and it was something out of the 1950s,” Meehan said. “This was something I thought was reminiscent of a kindler and gentler time. It made the day and set the tone for everything that happened that day. It was great.”
Sauer said he was overwhelmed by the expression of gratitude, particularly by such a young person.
“That was wonderful. To know the kids of today’s world would take the pains to do something like that was wonderful,” Sauer, 85, said on Wednesday. “There were boys, girls and even one teenager who came up to me … it was really nice.”
Another memorable moment for the mayor was watching a flag be presented by the U.S. Army Golden Knights team to Ocean City resident Bill Davis, who served in the Marines. Oddly enough, Davis was presented the flag by a member of the parachute team by the same name.
“He was surprised, he didn’t know about it. If you know Bill Davis, he’s very committed to the military and has played a role in our Flag Day ceremonies in years past. He’s very active in our community. He’s a super guy, and when they presented that flag to him, I am going to tell you if the hair didn’t stand up on your arm if you were standing, I don’t know what you were thinking,” Meehan said. “It was just a very emotional and fabulous moment. The parachuters went down the line and shook hands with every member of our retired forces that was there.”
Reached this week, Davis, 84, recalled the moment.
“I didn’t understand all of it, but the lead man came over to me and eight veterans standing in row and this guy came over immediately after landing and asked, ‘who’s Bill Davis?’ I said, ‘I am.’ On his life suit he had a nametag ‘Bill Davis’. I said, ‘what are you doing with my parachute coat on?’ Then he went over, got rid of his pack and presented me with an American flag they had flown down,” Davis said. “It really surprised me. I don’t know why I was picked, but I gave it to the local Marine Corps league.”
The second annual event was held on a weekend this year, boosting crowds way beyond last year’s premier event, which was held mid-week.
“Last year I don’t think anybody knew what to expect, and from last year’s event everyone got a true idea of what this event could become. By putting it on a weekend, more people could be here and now we have an idea on what an air show is about and what it can be for Ocean City,” Meehan said.
The Ocean City Mayor and Council have funded $50,000 toward the air show each of the first two years, and Meehan feels the funding support is warranted.
“I support it 100 percent. We have an agreement with the promoter where there’s a formula in place where once he starts to make a profit we are scaled back. I think that’s good. We are sharing in the risk a little bit, but I will tell you I don’t think there’s anywhere we can spend $50,000 and get a better impact than what we saw last weekend,” Meehan said. “I can’t think of a better promotion or $50,000 in advertising anywhere that would have gotten us the return on our investment than the air show did. I will continue to support that. I think it’s a signature event and the town should continue its commitment.”
As an example of the town’s exposure, Meehan reported there was a 14-image photo gallery of the air show featured on the front page of CNN’s website last weekend.