OCEAN CITY – A weekly laser light and fireworks show will hit the sky downtown this summer as a new series of free events was approved this week.
The Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) presented an update to the Mayor and City Council on its recent meetings where ideas were worked out to bring new events as well as expand existing events with the funds allocated by the town.
TAB Chair Melanie Pursel requested that a summer family entertainment series be approved and funded partially with the remainder of the $300,000 allocated to the board in the fiscal year of 2012. In order to do so, the fund balance of $170,000 will have to be rolled over into fiscal yaer 2013’s to accommodate the entertainment series.
In addition, TAB asked for the council to consider allocating an additional $300,000 in next year’s budget to finish funding the series and in order to continue to study incoming presentations of new events that would add value to the town.
The council agreed to allow the remainder of fiscal year 2012’s budget to be transferred to fiscal year 2013 and consider an additional allocation of $300,000 during upcoming budget discussions.
Councilman Joe Hall asked for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be created between the town and TAB to pinpoint specifics on how the board should be spending the allocated funds.
“I support it because I think we need to have value added in town but I do think we need to buckle down and get a MOU on really what we are trying to acquire with this money,” he said.
Next the organizer of the entertainment series, Bob Rothermel, presented the events that were originally introduced in October which will cost around $275,000.
“We have come up with a program that I think provides a thread throughout the whole summer, provides value added to our people that are coming, and provides an opportunity to bring some new people to town,” he said.
The series of events include a weekly laser light show and fireworks demonstration during the summer. Also, kicking off the summer on Memorial Day weekend with a Patriotic Celebration demonstrating a Giant American Flag on the beach held up by participants and a beach maze during Octoberfest.
Rothermel and partner, Jack Hennen, have been working with Image Engineering who has created the “Beach Light Spectacular”, which is a five-story inflatable sphere with aerial lasers to create beams and music choreographed to any theme. The sphere would be portable and would be set up approximately half an hour before show time.
The laser light show would be about seven minutes in length and it’s proposed to be shown three times each Sunday at the North Division Street beach. The fireworks demonstration will be every Tuesday evening, once a night. The laser show and fireworks would be held weekly from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The series of events also includes concerts but Rothermel explained that they have been unable to nail down any performers at this time. The council agreed to lock in the schedule for the proposed series besides the concerts.
Following the vote, Mayor Rick Meehan expressed some of his own ideas in conjunction with the series. One being to consider spreading other events funded by Ocean City throughout town especially more north, for example at Northside Park, to draw more attention to that area.
“Whatever we do we want to have time to promote it and that is what it is all about,” he said. “We want to let people know that these events are taking place … having that lead time makes all the difference in the world of having it out there.”
TAB’s last request of the day was to have the board sponsor OC BikeFest with $15,000 of TAB’s funding.
OC BikeFest organizer Cliff Sutherland applied for a grant from TAB upon a suggestion made by the council.
“We [TAB] not only decided to support new events but existing events and helping them grow so we did make a decision to ask that you support $15,000 towards that event in 2012 but again I don’t know if that funding will be dedicated in the budget,” Pursel said.
Joe Hall pointed out that Ocean City’s room tax revenue has exceeded expectations and TAB’s sponsorship could derive from that revenue.
“I support the $15,000 to come out of the additional revenue from the excess room tax revenue from the percentage dedicated to destination marketing,” he said as he set a motion to approve TAB’s request.
Meehan did not agree and asserted that Sutherland has already negotiated a contract with the town for funding. He said the event receives revenue in many other ways including ticket sales and vendors.
“I give Cliff [Sutherland] a lot of credit,” the mayor said. “I think he is a tremendous business guy and he is going to go for every angle he can get and every dollar, and that is how he has become successful but he also understands no and where you draw the line and where you move forward.”
Meehan suggested TAB talk to its members to see if it had any interest regarding individually sponsor OC BikeFest.
“When you talk about the businesses sponsoring, they already do,” Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones said. “Our association last year game him $5,000 and we don’t have much of a budget. We are very nonprofit. So the business community has definitely stepped up and helped him. We were under the understanding as TAB that this is money for economic impact and without this event we are going to lose the best event we have ever had in this city forever.”
Meehan responded that for TAB to sponsor OC BikeFest with town funds is re-negotiating Sutherland’s existing contract with Ocean City.
“The event will go on without this,” he said.
The council approved TAB’s request to sponsor OC BikeFest in a 6-1 vote with Councilwoman Margaret Pillas opposed based on remaining consistent with her prior opposing votes having to do with promoters asking for additional funding from the town.