OCEAN CITY – Kite Loft owner Jay Knerr says the annual Maryland International Kite Expo will continue to go on, whether the town helps pay for it or not.
A miscommunication almost cost Jay Knerr his funding for this year’s Maryland Kite Exposition, and next year, he won’t be getting any funding at all due to the town’s budget woes.
Yet, the $7,000 that the town of Ocean City has granted Knerr in seed money over the past several years will not make or break a festival that is not only beloved by many visitors and residents, but also has proven to be a valuable revenue generator for Boardwalk businesses.
“The kite festival was a tremendous success. Not only did we have more kite flyers attend, but we also had a significant increase in the number of spectators that came to town just for the event,” said Knerr. “The amount of kites in the air was nothing short of spectacular.”
The council recently told Knerr and seemingly all other special events that no money would be granted for private events, at least not for the next few years, as the town will be closely watching its expenditures in the dire economic times.
“It is my opinion that the city needs to financially support events that are free to the public and have proven to show a positive impact on the community,” said Knerr. “A festival such as ours has no income other that sponsorship and obtaining funding from private sources is getting to be very difficult these days.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas, whose owns a Boardwalk store, said that though she is an advocate of private events, such as the kite expo, the town should be careful not to bear too much of the financial burden.
“Business is about risk, and there are no guarantees by way of seed money,” said Pillas. “It’s up to the promoters to ensure that these events are a success.”
Knerr offered up a suggestion about ways for the local government to ensure that events like his will continue to be successful and bring added economic impact to the resort as a whole.
“Perhaps the City Council could establish a small private events account, funded out of the tourism budget in order to help events such as ours. It could be regulated by the tourism committee and reviewed every year,” said Knerr.
Mayor Rick Meehan said that events like the kite expo and the OC Air show, as well as the Cruisin’ events, are “definite revenue generators” for the town. He said they should be looked at differently than new and unproven special events.
“These events bring in a lot of revenue, and for many of the people that come to town specifically for these events, they book their hotel rooms in advance, which in today’s economy, advance hotel reservations are like gold,” said Meehan. “So I think that maybe those events that have proven to be guaranteed money-makers should be treated a bit differently.”