It’s been an interesting summer as far as the ocean goes.
The water temperature was frigid during the early part of the summer but quickly warmed up by mid-June. Then came the bizarre activity a couple weeks ago with the pregnant hammerhead shark that died giving birth on the beach and was later buried in Fenwick. A day later, another pregnant hammerhead swam created a stir along the coast and in the back bays over a two-day period.
While the shark sightings have declined, there have been other reports of sharks being caught by surf fishermen at dawn and dusk on Ocean City and Assateague. That’s not entirely unusual, however.
This week there was some more unique discoveries that make living along the beach never boring. First there was the prevalence of salps over the weekend. Millions of them — which would not be an understatement — were seen on Assateague and all over Ocean City. Although harmless macro-plankton with no stingers, they were a nuisance for beach-goers and swimmers on Sunday and into the early part of the week. Their numbers fortunately have dissipated as the week has progressed. This is the first time I can recall seeing them in these huge numbers.
On Tuesday morning came the inevitable sighting of a Portuguese man o’ war on the beach at N. Division Street. It was only a matter of time before these highly venomous non-jellyfish (it’s a siphonophorae actually) were seen here. They have been seen all around the mid-Atlantic with news accounts from South Carolina to Long Island, N.Y. documenting them online.
The easiest advice for beach-goers is to simply check in with their lifeguard each morning and get an update on ocean conditions as well as the wildlife.
As I marveled over the talents of Trombone Shorty last Friday night at The Freeman Stage at Bayside, I oddly enough got to thinking about Bob Rothermel, who serves as the “talent buyer” for the venue and is backstage at just about every big concert at the venue.
Perhaps nobody was more pleased to see the summer season than Bob Rothermel, who spent the better part of the spring centrally involved in three huge stories around here — the community’s reaction to the mayhem that was Cruisin weekend in mid-May, the teachers’ outrage over the Board of Education’s budget battle with the County Commissioners and the revamping of street performer regulations in Ocean City.
To say Rothermel has his hands on a lot around these parts would be a gross understatement. Along with these matters, he spends months booking The Freeman Stage at Bayside and also works with bringing acts to the fledgling Ocean City Performing Arts Center. Additionally, his company organizes the weekly OC Beach Lights and fireworks in July and August, the O.C.toberfest activities and OC Sandfest.
As the event’s promoter, Cruisin weekend in mid-May put Rothermel in the crosshairs of many in the Ocean City community after extreme unruliness dominated the town for at least the second straight year. Even Mayor Rick Meehan, who, as he should, usually puts a positive spin on things, admitted significant changes to the town’s approach to the event were needed.
As the president of the Board of Education, Rothermel clearly earned his annual salary of $5,400 this year after a major battle with the County Commissioners over education funding. The issue here was the cuts the county made to the school system’s budget meant no raises for teachers and other school employees. The end result was the school board taking the funding the county allocated and then renegotiating a new package that cut 32 positions in favor of a modified raise package. Rothermel was involved in several aspects of that process.
If all that weren’t enough, Rothermel served over the winter on the street performer task force in Ocean City. It was that group’s recommendations that were essentially crafted into the legislation that was approved by the Ocean City Mayor and Council last month and will go into effect in a couple weeks. One of the goals was to come up with a set of regulations to govern the street performers without getting the town sued again.
Rothermel, the former director of the Ocean City Convention Center, is a rational and mannered individual. He has opinions, like the rest of us, but he has the perspective, knowledge and experience to merit an intent ear. He surely needed a balanced, mild-mannered approach over the last several months while dealing with these contentious matters.
While these three big stories will continue to unfold in the months ahead, here’s to hoping he sits backstage at The Freeman Stage and takes comfort in the fact thousands of people are having a blast seeing top-notch acts this summer at a special venue, thanks largely to him acting as the middle man between the Freeman Foundation and the musical acts.