OCEAN CITY – Although the holiday season will come to an end next week, Light Up Downtown will continue its fundraising efforts to reach the goal of having light displays in the Inlet Parking Lot once again.
Light Up Downtown kicked off its first year on Nov. 24 with a celebration and the lighting of Sunset Park’s tower into an illuminated tree. Each Friday and Saturday following until this past weekend Santa was on the scene with various entertainment scheduled, including music and dance performances, plus a bake sale, hot cocoa and more. There were also horse drawn carriage rides offered by R and B Ranch each Thursday through Sunday.
The Downtown Association initiated Light Up Downtown to bring the downtown area back to life during the holiday season. A number of years ago, Ocean City provided the Inlet Parking Lot with light displays during the holiday season for visitors to journey through, but the effort was abandoned.
The association hopes to reverse this by raising funds to once again light up the Inlet through Light Up Downtown and other fundraising initiatives.
Light Up Downtown Celebration Committee Chair Brian McCarthy reported he has noticed a difference in the number of visitors to the downtown area this year.
“A lot of the businesses have noticed more people have come down,” he said. “Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the carriage rides and the performers … Winterfest of Lights has been around for so long and it’s so nice, but this is just something else for them to do on their way up to see the lights.”
McCarthy said the kickoff celebration was probably one of the most crowded nights for Light Up Downtown as the City Council was present and music provided.
“Every night we had more people than we had expected,” McCarthy said. “With an outside venue, it is hard to predict. It is all conditional upon the weather, but we were pleased with it every night.”
McCarthy said some of the highlight performances were a contemporary A Cappella group from Salisbury University, Sqwuakappella, and the horse drawn carriage rides.
“The most amounts of inquiries were from people who wanted to know when the carriage rides were going on and when,” he said. “It was a good asset to have.”
According to McCarthy, not enough money has been raised at this point to have light displays in the Inlet Parking Lot by next holiday season. Light displays similar to the size of what is presented at Winterfest of Lights are upwards of $20,000 each.
“We raised a couple hundred dollars and so that will help get us ready for next year and try to approach it from a full long season,” he said.
McCarthy still has high hopes to have light displays in the Inlet by next year and plans to continue fundraising efforts into the new year and throughout the summer.
The Downtown Association has discussed setting up a booth at Springfest and Sunfest with Santa and even having a holiday themed boat parade this summer. Parade entries would be judged for prizes.
“There has been a lot of excitement about a boat parade, Christmas in June,” he said.
The boat parade will be proposed to take place from the Bahia Marina on 21st Street down to the Baywalk on 3rd Street or De Lazy Lizard on 1st Street.
“We would like to thank all of the volunteers and the businesses and the organizations that helped set up and of course a big thank you to the city,” McCarthy said this week.
Ocean City Development Corporation Executive Director Glenn Irwin agreed the first year of Light Up Downtown was a success.
“There is a lot that can spin off from lessons learned from this year’s event,” he said. “Overall, the attendance I saw was very good.”
Randy Davis of R and B Ranch said business spurred from the event was also very good.
“I have had a steady crowd on the weekends for the holiday route,” he said. “The boardwalk is good, it is according to weather, but we have been doing very well.”
Horse drawn carriage rides followed two routes during the month of December. The holiday route has ended, but the general route will continue beginning and ending at the Inlet on the Boardwalk near the comfort station.