Numbers Cloud Air Show’s Importance

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Although they cannot be dismissed entirely, the financial numbers unveiled this week behind last month’s OC Air Show do not tell the entire story.

At this week’s Mayor and Council meeting, all the available financial information on the second annual event was presented, and it was not exactly a pretty picture. The fact is the air show is a young event and is not yet on sound financial footing. It’s still growing and finances are expected to be tight until major national sponsors are inked to help defray some of the larger expenses. This situation is common in the special event industry, particularly for fledgling endeavors.

According to promoter Brian Lilley, the event’s gross revenue was $168,000 with expenses totaling a little more than $128,000, resulting in a net profit of $39,390. Last year there was no profit to report, sources indicate. With incidentals and all factors considered, this profit resulted in the town getting a check for about $15,000, compared to the $50,000 in taxpayer money allocated for the event.

While these financial reports are indeed necessary and a good exercise in fiscal accountability, a true measure of the air show’s success or failure goes beyond numbers germane to producing the event itself. It’s about the overall impact the event has on the town, such as parking revenue and tax collections, and its business community, such as bottom line sales. It’s important to add to this the tremendous amount of positive exposure the event attracted from media outlets near and far.

A key number that was not presented at this week’s meeting and is essentially impossible to calculate is the overall financial impact for the town. Certainly, many of the hundreds of thousands of folks who came to Ocean City for that weekend in June were local residents who drove short distances to town, watched show, ate lunch, had some cocktails and then went home. However, there were some who came to Ocean City and rented a hotel room or condominium solely because of the air show. They would not have been here otherwise.

The air show is perfectly timed for a weekend in June, a month that leaves many businesses wanting. As a matter of fact, most operators prefer September to June these days. However, the air show brings promise to June or at least one weekend in the month. Next year it will fall the weekend after the Memorial Day holiday, traditionally a bummer of a weekend for businesses waiting for schools to close for the season.

The only way to measure the air show’s impact on the town is to attend it. That’s when you will realize it’s a special event that helps Ocean City in immeasurable ways, and numbers cannot quantify that impact.

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