OCEAN CITY — As fate would have it, the town is going to have to pull off a tricky juggling act on June 5-6 as three major events have been scheduled to occur at the same time.
As a result of scheduling demands from the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, who will be returning to headline the 3rd Annual Ocean City Air Show, the OC Car and Truck Show, the Annual Ravens Parade and the aforementioned OC Air Show will all take place on the first weekend of June, prompting a bit of concern from town officials and the respective event promoters if the town can handle the crowds and more importantly the traffic created by these three headlining events all at once.
“We are essentially going to be putting 10 pounds into a five-pound bag, and it does concern me a little bit from a public safety standpoint,” said Mayor Rick Meehan, “but the good thing is that we have a long time to properly prepare ourselves in order to make it work for the town, the respective events and the spectators.”
OC Car and Truck Show Promoter Brad Hoffman of Spark Productions has had June 5-6 booked with the town of Ocean City for over a year, and when he heard rumors that the Air Show and the Ravens parade would all be on the same weekend as his event, he admits that he started to worry. As a result, he came before the Ocean City Tourism Commission last Thursday to, in his words, “start the conversation on how we can make this thing work out.”
“We’ve had a long history with the town and our event has grown year in and year out,” said Hoffman. “I know how crowded the town gets when it’s just our event in town, and my worry is that the traffic in town is going to gridlock and the lines to get into town will be so long that people will get frustrated and just turn around. That wouldn’t be good for my event, the other events, and certainly not good for the town.”
Town officials reported that the Air Show’s placement at the beginning of June was almost exclusively based on the availability of the Thunderbirds, who also headlined last summer’s event.
“It was packed last year for my event, and it was packed for the air show, and it’s going to be packed again,” said Hoffman, “but when you throw them both on the same weekend, and put the Ravens parade, which is pretty much based just a few blocks up from the Air Show headquarters, I’m a little worried at all the events adversely effecting the others.”
Town officials have seemingly no other choice than to try to make the best of the situation, which if pulled off, could be a gigantic economic impact for the town of Ocean City on a weekend directly after Memorial Day that is historically on the slow side.
“We are going to work through this and get everyone together to do it in the best way that we can,” said Meehan.“I am a little concerned with the costs that the town could incur as a result of increased manpower from the police department and public works side of the coin, but other than crowd control and some traffic issues, this really shouldn’t be a huge thing to overcome.”
What Meehan referred to in concerns to costs to the town, was undoubtedly the added police presence that will be needed throughout the town, and the public works department employee costs for setting up and tearing down materials supplied by the town to the respective events.
Yet, Meehan noted that by that point in the season, the police department would be fully staffed with seasonal officers, which should dull the sting the town could incur through overtime and other costs.
“You also have to remember that the first week of June will also be our first real influx of Senior Week students, so that adds a whole new dimension to this,” said Meehan.
Hoffman, whose OC Car and Truck Show is based out of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center and have been a top act during the month of June since 2001, agreed that the police department and public works departments are going to have perhaps the toughest task.
“I think all these events are great, and the air show has been a phenomenal addition to the special events roster in Ocean City, but I do think this weekend is going to stretch police and it’s going to make it very hard for the public works department to set up a parade, and manage two other major events. We really need to get everyone together at a table and have a serious conversation about this,” said Hoffman.
City Manager Dennis Dare said this week that measures are already being made to make the weekend a success and not a clustering of spectators into gridlock.
“I believe we have developed a solution for the Ravens parade conflict with the Air Show,” said Dare. “They are being consulted and hopefully will confirm. The only conflict I am aware of with the car show is the parking lot at the Convention Center, and I believe we may have solved that as well with an alternate lot which we are in the process of contacting.”
Hoffman says he’s heard nothing back from the town as of press time in regards to setting up a meeting or new plans, but he says he hopes that the planning gets underway as soon as possible.
The OC Car and Truck Show, according to Hoffman, has spent in excess of $384,000 in rental costs alone at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center since 2001, generated an estimated $31.1 million in economic impact for the town of Ocean City (hotel revenue, and food and beverage) since it’s inception and routinely brings in anywhere from 8,000-10,000 people to the town each year.
“I don’t feel slighted because they put the Air Show on the same weekend, because I think that it’s a great event for this town,” said Hoffman, “but a nice compromise would be for the town to help cross-market our event to the people at the Air Show, and vice versa. If we all plan this properly, this will be great for everyone.”