OCEAN CITY- Ocean City officials this week approved a $300,000 expenditure for the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) to keep established and increasingly popular special events going in 2014 along with the addition of a late-August sand sculpture event along 10 blocks of beach in the downtown area culminating with a festival on Labor Day weekend.
At the regular work session on Tuesday, the Ocean City Mayor and Council approved the $300,000 expenditure from the town’s tourism department budget to cover a wide variety of special events including the popular laser shows and fireworks displays throughout the summer. TEAM Productions, which produces the wide range of special events, will handle the remaining $50,000 needed for the total $350,000 package for 2014.
TAB and TEAM Productions for the last several years has produced a wide variety of free, value-added special events in Ocean City during the summer months, much to the delight of the visitors and residents alike. The events include a patriotic laser show on Memorial Day weekend, laser shows on Sundays throughout the summer with new fireworks effects added, fireworks shows on Mondays and Tuesdays in July and August.
Also included on the lengthy list of special events are fireworks displays at Sundaes in the Park events at Northside Park. Other events include the popular Halloween Beach Maze and the pet parade and pumpkin races added last year. At Tuesday’s meeting, a new special event was announced with the addition of OC Sandfest. The event will include the construction of huge, elaborate sand sculptures over a 10-block area along the downtown beach roughly from 4th Street to the pier.
According to TEAM Productions’ Bob Rothermel, many of the sculptures will measure 10 feet high and around 30 feet across. Two sculptures will be built each day starting on August 18 until the entire area is covered with the vast pieces or elaborate artwork along the beach closest to the Boardwalk. The sculptures will be illuminated at night, providing a nice addition to the downtown area during the end of August.
The event will include interactive activities for visitors along with some nighttime options and will culminate with a festival on the beach. The sculptures will be completed on the beach by September 1 and the will remain in place throughout the Labor Day holiday weekend. Rothermel said the event has the potential to create a lot of exposure for the resort in late August when the summer season is typically winding down.
“We’ll leave the displays up through Labor Day,” said Rothermel. “We should get two weeks of publicity and exposure from this event.”
Councilmembers approved of $300,000 TAB expenditure in general and the OC Sandfest event specifically.
“It’s an extremely exciting event,” said Councilmember Mary Knight. “This will be a nice addition to our late August special events calendar.”
In general, the Council was supportive of all of the special events presented by TAB. In recent years, the fireworks shows and laser shows on the beach in the downtown area have become increasingly popular, according to Councilmember Brent Ashley.
“These are great family activities,” he said. “I walk down there all the time and hear people talking about them. Bob really has a pulse for what brings people to Ocean City. When you go down there and see the excitement of the people participating, you know that is what brings people back to Ocean City and we need more of that.”
Councilmember Dennis Dare asked if the recently completed comfort station and associated stage over top was being considered for inclusion in the town’s special events through TAB. Rothermel explained the current plans do not include any special events focused solely on the Caroline Street comfort station stage, but that he would look into it. Dare suggested some events be booked for the new stage before it gets too late.
“We’re trying to have something down there every night and the one thing that has changed from last year to this year is the stage at Caroline Street,” he said. “We want to utilize that as much as possible, but a lot of bands already have most dates booked for summer. I wonder if we can redirect one of these fireworks nights with a concert at Caroline Street.”
The $300,000 expenditure for TAB is funded through the tourism budget with 60,000 allocated in the current fiscal year that ends on July 1 and the remaining $240,000 allocated in the fiscal year 2015 budget. Councilmember Margaret Pillas wondered if the $300,000 allocation was enough given the success and popularity of the events.
“When TAB got formed, I was worried about restricting you to $300,000,” she said. “People really like these events and their big crowd-pleasers. I wouldn’t want to restrict you if you can do even more, even if we had to pull money out of the advertising budget.”
However, Dare disagreed and warned about pulling money from the advertising budget beyond what is already allocated to TAB.
“I don’t necessarily see it that way,” he said. “The town has a responsibility to do destination advertising and I think we’d be negligent in pulling money away from that and putting it into special events.”
Mayor Rick Meehan agreed the advertising budget is dedicated to destination advertising, but also said TAB could always come back for more funding requests for the right special events.
“When we raised room tax, we dedicated it to destination advertising,” he said. “To date, TAB has never spent the $300,000 in any given year, but they shouldn’t feel restrained. If something exciting comes along and it exceeds their budget, they should bring it back before the Mayor and Council and we’ll have an open mind about finding the funding for it.”