Some winds of controversy have been blowing around the proposed Uptown Beach Bash of late.
Over the winter, an alliance consisting of veteran business owners in north Ocean City was formed to try and brainstorm ways to ensure the businesses in the north end of the island were getting a fair shake as far as event planning and tourism marketing. Several meetings were held and elected officials were present for at least one of them. The consensus among the proprietors seemed to be north Ocean City needed a marquee event and next year a wine festival, which required state legislature action to make it even possible, is in the works.
This year a weekend of unique events was created for the weekend of Aug. 24-26 called the Uptown Beach Bash, which received City Council approval earlier this year as well as some funding support. The plan includes a kick off bay party and paddleboard regatta at BJ’s on Friday as well as a Saturday bikini parade that hopes to break a Guinness world record beginning at the Princess Royale and heading north to the Carousel with an after-parade party at the Blue Ox. On Sunday, a free “Local Palooza” festival is planned, featuring 12 live bands, an arts show, bike stunt shows, kids’ activities and more.
When the weekend events were last discussed at the council level, Mayor Rick Meehan expressed concerns, advising organizers to alter the hours and limit the day-long hours of operation of the “Local Palooza” event. That did not happen and the event website currently lists noon-9 p.m. as its hours, although promoter Brad Hoffman of Spark Productions said the time slot he is booking is from noon-7 p.m. with the city’s Sundaes in the Park starting at 7 p.m.
Meehan said last week he remains disturbed by the fact $22,000 that was saved from changing 4th of July fireworks distributors this year was directed to what is essentially a private event. He said the savings were spent in quick fashion by the council without much thought and reiterated his major concerns over the timing of the day-long concert event.
“There are really few people that are going to come out during that time of day. This [Local Palooza] is really going against everything that we have seen up there, [Northside Park]. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be a loser,” the mayor said. “… I just think if you look at the history and if you look at what has been successful at Northside Park … I just don’t see it being successful and I just think it is the wrong direction. … I will support both events and do what I can to make them successful … but I think that $22,000 that we saved was squandered away greatly.”
What north Ocean City is trying to do is start an annual signature event, but history, according to Meehan, says the planned approach will not be successful. For a number of years, the city hosted the Fourth of July Jamboree at Northside Park starting at noon that provided entertainment and activities for the entire day leading up to the fireworks that night but five years ago a decision was made to put a stop to the day-long activities due to a lack in attendance as well as cost savings. Currently, the 4th of July evening celebration at Northside Park starts at 6 with live entertainment and fireworks taking off around 9:30 p.m.
Hoffman said he has taken into consideration the mayor’s concerns. He said he is merely trying to promote an event that the north Ocean City business community desires. He thinks the entire weekend will be a success and specifically said the seven-hour concert event, which will then give way to the final Sundaes in the Park event of the season, will be centered around families.
“As adamantly as he feels it will be a loser, I feel it will be a winner, and I have been doing this for 25 years. I think I have a good barometer of what will work and what won’t, and I did find a consensus among the north business community for a good, exciting new event. They have embraced it and a lot of people in the north end are excited to see this come together. I’m not trying to hit a grand slam here, I’m just trying to get to second base and tweak it in the future and give the north end of the town events they deserve and should have funded,” Hoffman said. “They [north Ocean City businesses] produce this [tax] revenue and should be able to have an event they can be proud of because in the end they deserve it. This is addressing the concern of the north-end alliance to have some money and efforts put in their direction.”
Hoffman mentioned acts lined up for the Sunday live music event include Full Circle, Blake Haley, Monkee Paw, Bryan Russo and Aaron Howell, among others.
“It’s going to be mellow, beachy type music. I am going to ask them to tailor their sets to kids and families being in a park on a Sunday. That’s where I was trying to address any sorts of concerns the mayor would have had,” he said.
On the topic of the $22,000 reallocation from the fireworks savings to the new event, Hoffman preferred to stay out of the political controversy that has dominated the last two years in Ocean City. Instead, he pointed to the added media exposure the bikini event has already received.
“The town has gotten more than its $22,000 already in media exposure. It was on the cover of the Baltimore Sun travel section and it will be documented and recorded by national media outlets. It’s a media event, economic event and is not about blowing music until midnight. It will be noon to 7 p.m. and then Mary Lou and the Untouchables will take the stage as they have every year for however long to wrap up the Sundaes’ summer series.”
More on the event can be found at uptownbeachbash.com.