Downtown Winter Celebration Effort Moves Ahead

OCEAN CITY – Local organizations have partnered to bring life back to the downtown area during the holiday season.

At Tuesday’s Mayor and Council work session, Brian McCarthy of the Downtown Association and Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC) Executive Director Glenn Irwin presented a concept called Light-Up-Downtown Winter Celebration.

According to McCarthy, the Downtown Association, OCDC, OC Chamber of Commerce and the Holiday Lights Committee are partnering with the intent of bringing more lights and activities for a new holiday event downtown.

“Our hopes are to bring a winter event that will grow into something special for visitors and residents alike,” he said.

The theme will be “Donate to Decorate”. The purpose is to create a new and unique holiday experience to bring new light displays to the Inlet and encourage downtown property owners and businesses to decorate for the holidays. Fundraising efforts will be held to purchase new holiday light displays for downtown.

The event is proposed to grow in phases starting during this year’s holiday season with one large light display at the Inlet, the lighting of Sunset Park’s tower in the formation of a Christmas tree and on Nov. 30 a ceremony will be led by the Mayor and City Council with musical entertainment.

“The following week we will have Santa arrive at Sunset Park hopefully on a Coast Guard boat,” McCarthy said.

The ceremony will kick off several weeks of fundraising to pay for new lighting displays through several events held at Sunset Park centered on the “Donate to Decorate” theme.

“Every year we would like to increase the light displays and other activities in the future,” McCarthy said. “We foresee a skating rink, vendor village, horse drawn carriages and a boat parade.”

The requests made to the town were to use Sunset Park for several dates in November and December for activities and poinsettia sales. It could also be used for the installation, electric source, break down and storage of the light displays and fixtures.

Recreation and Parks Director Tom Shuster added that additional lights for the downtown were included in the department’s proposed budget for the upcoming year.

“There is going to be lights installed on the Worcester Street water tower, we are moving one of our existing light displays underneath the arch of the Boardwalk, and there is some additional pole lighting that is going to be joined downtown,” he said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas recalled when the town offered holiday light displays in the Inlet a number of years ago but were removed due to a lack of visitors and downtown business participation.

“We have been asking the downtown business community to get back involved and I think this is a step in the right direction,” she said. “The fact that you want to support downtown and light it up and collect money to do so I think we should partner with you.”

Councilman Brent Ashley, who serves on the Holiday Lights Committee along with Councilwoman Mary Knight, set the motion to approve the requests made and have the proposal move forward. The council approved in a unanimous vote.

“We can partner and you become vested by getting your partners and business community involved and that is what creates a successful campaign,” Mayor Rick Meehan said. “I look forward to this and I think it is a great idea.”

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