Busy Cruisin’ Weekend Launches Summer Season With Huge Crowds, Major Traffic Backups; City Officials, Promoter To Review Event

South Ocean City is pictured Saturday morning as Cruisin’ participants line up to enter the Inlet parking lot, one of the official event headquarters. Photo by Rally Rides/Howard Whaley South Ocean City is pictured Saturday morning as Cruisin’ participants line up to enter the Inlet parking lot, one of the official event headquarters. Photo by Rally Rides/Howard Whaley

OCEAN CITY — A lively debate ensued among the business and residential sectors this week over the Cruisin’ event with critics maintaining it needs major changes and supporters welcoming it as one of the busiest times of the year.

Throughout the course of the weekend and early part of the week, Ocean City residents vented on social media their frustrations over massive traffic backups, infrastructure damage to roads caused by the thousands of classic cars in town spinning out and the massive amounts of litter left behind by irresponsible visitors. In fact, one long-time Ocean City resident described the event in a letter to the editor as “broken” and in need of massive changes before the town hosts it again.

“Why are these people allowed to flaunt our laws? We have an ordinance for noise (broken), an ordinance against public drinking (broken), an ordinance against speeding and reckless driving (broken), and an ordinance against illegal trailer parking (broken). I wouldn’t want to be the one to explain our hypocrisy to visitors charged with those same violations later on this summer,” wrote resident Gabriel Mancini. “The business of Ocean City, that is to say, our image, our “brand”, is suffering from this ill-planned, poorly executed event. How many people didn’t come down because of the Cruisers? How many people will never be back? This weekend was an embarrassment to the Town of Ocean City.”

Mancini challenged the council to conduct a thorough review of the event, which he does not want to see end.

“Stand up for the people who live here. No group event should impact the town at the expense of the people who call it home,” Mancini said. “If the cruisers want to come to Ocean City and obey our laws, we should welcome them … in March or April.”

One of the event’s producers, Bob Rothermel, a former tourism and special events director for the town, took exception to the negatives being hurled by community members at the Cruisin’ event, which had 3,300 registered vehicles this year.

“The event is not broken I can tell you that. It’s a fine event. I think the biggest problem that we have is it’s the biggest event at the start of the season. The town wakes up almost like being shot out of a cannon. I would venture to say like any event or any group of people 95 to 99 percent of the people are not the problem. There is a small majority who gives us some trouble. It’s those who have nothing to do with the event that causes the problems and give the event a bad name,” Rothermel said.

In the event registered participants were discovered to be causing trouble, Rothermel said his team revoked their registration credentials. He said his group controls what it can, but acknowledged much of the responsibility falls to the Ocean City Police Department.

“We want the police to have a heavy hand. We don’t want the event to go south. Knuckleheads will create problems for the masses. If you look at the Inlet parking lot, these people are members of AARP walking with their grandchildren or they are families with young children. It’s the perfect event for Ocean City, except it has to be managed in a way that I don’t think we are capable of doing,” he said. “We can’t enforce the streets, but we do what we can to keep an eye on the participants. We can’t control those who are not part of the event and come down here to create havoc. That’s where the problem lies.”

Although detractors of the weekend made their displeasure known this week, on the flip side were multiple posts on the Facebook page of Cruisin’ and others indicated the police were too strict and ruined the weekend’s fun for participants.

Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters said the city will always rule on the site of caution when it comes to public safety.

“There are certainly some people on both sides of the fence in regards to how the event went. The emails I was getting was that our police department was overzealous with their enforcement. Our opinion as a town is safety and cleanliness is our number one priority, so our police department while some might feel are overzealous, their job is to make sure everyone is safe here in Ocean City,” she said. “Cruiser week can be a traffic event with a lot of cars on the roadway and their priority is to make sure everyone that is on the road is being safe and following all of the rules.”

Rothermel said he will be meeting with Mayor Rick Meehan and City Manager David Recor next week to review the event. He said this is not conducted every year, but in light of concerns expressed he wants to make sure the city and the special event are on the same proverbial page.

“Already, we have 1,000 cars signed up for next spring’s event. Ocean City is the perfect destination for the event,” Rothermel said. “What we want to do is create an economic impact and maintain our welcome by stimulating business everywhere. I want to make sure [at this meeting] that we are still welcome and doing everything we can to be a corporate citizen of the town. The summer season starts with Cruisin’ now, not Memorial Day. In many cases, I hear Cruisin’ weekend is better than Memorial Day weekend and even the 4th of July. It’s not all about profit, but it has become the economic engine that kicks off the summer season. We have to realize this is a resort. It’s not a retirement community. Business is going to have to happen for us to enjoy the community that we live in.”

Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) Executive Director Susan Jones views some of the perceived problems from the weekend as representative of the changes in society and culture.

“The offenders are the big old pickup trucks blowing black smoke everywhere. It’s almost like the VW takeover in September with the big truck groups … I think they were the big offenders,” Jones said. “I don’t think Cruisin’ itself is the problem. I think it’s the way social media is impacting tourism. Social media has impacted travelers’ vacations today. It’s today’s youth not being raised the way we were. It’s society changing and the visitor of today is much different than those of 25 years ago.”

G. Hale Harrison of the Harrison Group, a company that operates 10 hotels and 10 restaurants in Ocean City, echoed the sentiments from Rothermel and Jones that the concerns over Cruisin’ are rooted in the non-event participants. He said it would behoove town and police officials to focus on the other groups not affiliated with Cruisin’ because his perspective is they are causing a majority of the problems.
“There are other events that are falling on the same dates that are being confused by the public with Cruisin’. The big trucks and the mustangs come on that weekend and they are not part of Cruisin’. They are separate and I don’t think it’s essential to the business community. The hotels will be full just with Cruisin’. These other events have just sprung up in the last year or two and they do cause more problems,” Harrison said. “The city can make an impact without hurting businesses by looking into those events and the dates they come.”

According to Waters, the chief complaint that disturbs her is the aspect of how dirty the resort appeared at various times of the weekend from reckless visitors.

“I have talked to a lot of people who have come down for the event, and people who live here, and like I said from the local standpoint it’s that they are just disturbed people are coming here being so disrespectful by throwing trash everywhere. That is very upsetting for us,” she said. “We have an amazing Public Works Department who works really, really hard to make sure Ocean City looks spic and span. That is unacceptable, and we are certainly the first people to say that is unacceptable, and that is definitely going to be on our after action report as we head into next year to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. No one wants to see Ocean City disrespected and have trash thrown anywhere in our town, especially when we all work so hard to keep it so clean. There is definitely going to be some discussion moving forward as to how we can prevent that type of thing from happening again.”

Jones understands a discussion may be held between Cruisin’ promoters and the city about moving the event to April, but she said that’s unlikely to happen for practical reasons.

“The only problem is it would have to be mid-April because it takes 10 days to set up the tents for Springfest. In addition, if it’s mid-April, you are not going to have enough hotel rooms open, and Cruisin’ fills the hotels rooms, absolutely,” Jones said.

Harrison, current president of the OCHMRA, cautioned the city and Cruisin’ about any discussion of changing the event dates in the future.

“May weekends, aside from Cruisin’ and Memorial Day, are not particularly strong from a business standpoint. Losing Cruisin’ would be disastrous to the business community. It’s as strong as Memorial Day weekend. Our season is short enough already and losing one of the prime weekends would be painful. Any event can be refined and improved and looking into how we can improve it for residents, participants and businesses is certainly a worthy effort,” Harrison said. “We are talking about killing a golden goose so we have to be really careful there.”

Waters could not confirm whether a date change request was being considered by the city at this point.
“Cruiser weekend has done a really good job in the past 24 years and has been a really successful event. A lot of people that come for the event are really here to show off their pride in their vehicles but unfortunately there are people that come who don’t necessarily have those intentions,” Waters said. “While they have been around for a long time, sometimes it might be time to make a change and what has worked in past years might not be working anymore. I would assume before next year’s event or before the fall event, there is going to be a conversation with the city manager and the Mayor and Council to determine how we are not going to run into those same problems, and how we are going to make changes to improve the quality of the event and the quality of Ocean City for our residents and our visitors.”






12 thoughts on “Busy Cruisin’ Weekend Launches Summer Season With Huge Crowds, Major Traffic Backups; City Officials, Promoter To Review Event

  1. As an Ocean City resident I want to say last weekend was fantastic. While there are a select few who insist on being trouble the overall majority are well behaved and just having a good time. I realize that the rest of the summer there are no speed laws broken, no public drinking and no noise regulations ever broken that this only happens on Crusin weekend.
    This si a good event that I have enjoyed for the last 10 years here and hope it continues for years to come.

  2. So the local OC residents are complaining that OC isn’t a quiet shanty beach town in the Summer? May I remind the OC residents who provides the bulk of financial income for OC, and it’s not the permanent residents either.

  3. Cruisin event is fantastic but as stated when your not doing anything wrong just cruisin the street at posted speeds etc. and you get pulled over for having tinted tail lights or being forced to roll your windows up by police. there’s a fine line between throwing the book at someone who is creating a problem. but when most of the cars that are enjoying the event and abiding by the laws are getting the book to them. they even gave multiple tickets this year on the same stop for the excact same violation. just worded it different i have saw about 200+ ppl that say they WILL NOT be returning.

  4. “Mustangs are not part of the event”…..AHAHAHAHA! Screw you pal. The people I came to OC with in our Mustangs didnt leave a god damn drop of trash. We may have laid a little rubber here and there, but we are not that disrespectful. Leaving trash is an entirely unrelated issue. And im sorry, I didnt realize a 2004 Mach 1 was excluded from such an event. I would have to say its a pretty eligible car. If you wanna get techincal, it was originally “Hot Rod Week” which encompasses MANY different vehicles. Mostly American muscle/pony/classic/rat rod type cars. My car would fall under a modern pony car class, and is nothing to turn your nose up at. Far as the big trucks go, you’re bitchin about street legal trucks emitting exhaust that is normal. Im not a fan of some of the guys, especially with exhaust coming out toward the side (stacks are nice, as they shoot the exhaust straight up, and away from other motorists/pedestrians) that “roll coal” into the open windows of cars next to them. Those guys are assholes. No one (at least I hope) is so ignorant as to claim the cops are over zealous when it comes to ticketing for obvious safety violations such as long rolling burnouts at speed, or speed contests. That sorta thing, you get busted, you have no one to blame but yourself. I will say that OCPD has in the past (luckily I was ticket free this past weekend) been over zealous with handing out petty tickets for things such as window tint, missing front tags (legal in some states like PA cars that were there, and were attempted to be ticketed) seatbelts while in gridlock traffic, and exhaust noise. None of which are real safety concerns. Here’s an idea. You dont want the noise and event traffic, move out of a resort location that survives on tourist events, and to some place just outside OC like Ocean Pines.

    • Why anyone would want to live in OC with events like this, the lower element of society slumming around, the taxes, lazy cops, near riots when a certain segment of society decides to get high/drunk and resort to tribal instincts, high dollar prices on anything under the sun, is beyond me.

      Living within the town limits of a resort and expecting quiet is like one moving next to a chicken farmer and expecting no foul odors. Not gonna happen. Maybe a one day event with them crusing through town and keep right on going would solve that problem.

  5. I just have one question for the OCPD. Why don’t they enforce the open container law on Cruisin’ weekend?. If I went out to Coastal Hgwy with a lawn chair and a beer right now I would have a citation in my hands within 15 minutes tops. I don’t understand why it’s OK for the white trash hangers on to line Coastal Highway, drink Budweiser & watch the cars go by all weekend without so much as a warning from OCPD.

  6. All of these issues are at any event, even small town carnivals pick up trash..people and music are loud and people park where they shouldn’t. I think everyone needs to get over it and welcome the CRUISERS back with open arms. As a resident of this town I understand that those events are what keep OC alive.

  7. The citizens of OC kinda remind me of people who KNOWINGLY move into a house next to a drag strip, then bitch about the noise!!! Gimmie a break. You live in a beach resort, what do you expect during spring and summer months? They idiots who cause trouble should not be allowed back, period. Don’t ruin it for the 98% of those people who behave and enjoy a nice weekend with their cars and their friends and spend money, money for stuff that is ridiculously priced, I might add. I’ve been to one Crusin’ weekend. I can never seem to get the money or the time to go anymore. It’s the only summer weekend I would go. Your biggest problem in OC during the summer are all the high school grads who come down for the summer and make a*@%es of themselves!! And way to single out Mustang owners. Yeah, we’re the offspring of Satan himself. All Mustang owners should be rounded up and burnt at the stake. Please. That guy probably owns a Crapmaro.

  8. I have been a participant in the Cruisin event since 1999, and most of the commenters were right in this article, the problem stems from the Diesel trucks and the Mustangs who are NOT part of the event. I think the police should increase their presence and come down HEAVY on ANY speed displays, especially the ones not registered for the show. It’s an easy thing to do because all the participants of the event have entry passes in their windshields. The diesel trucks that spew extreme amounts of black smoke on acceleration are a hazard to safety and violate federal laws because of modified power controllers that change the federally mandated emissions standards. If the police gave 10 or 15 EPA violation tickets that hand down a $10,000 fine the word would travel like wildfire and those offenders would vanish from this event forever! I have NO problem with Police enforcing laws and coming down on “speed displays” either, there is a way to have fun without endangering the citizens and participants.

  9. Business need these event to help kick start slow winters every year for business’s that stay open all year. This is a resort, not a bed room community. So many local are always complaining about the events that take place from May-September. They do not stop to realize there would be very little business in OC if we relied on the locals to keep us a float. Nine months of the year locals have their way, suck it up for the rest of the time. Would you by a house in Los Vegas and then complain to the town counsel about gambling? The locals are always complaining about tourist, but we could not have what we have with out them. When you bought here, you knew what it was, live with it.

  10. The atmosphere at the Cruisin’ this year was not good. The over zealous Police presence was just disgusting! I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but I thought we were supposed to have fun, and spend money in the local businesses. I have NO interest in watching the police straining their muscles. I think the city needs to back off a bit or the show should move to a different town.

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