Resort, Promoter Joins Forces On New BikeFest

OCEAN CITY – There will be more activities for bikers in Ocean City this September than  last year, despite Delmarva Bike Week moving most of its headline activities closer to Salisbury.

In January, Cliff Sutherland proposed “OC Jam” to the Mayor and City Council. The event was an attempt to replace the Delmarva Bike Week Harley Davidson of Berlin location, which attracted thousands of bikers to its Route 50 site. The proposed location of the event was Ocean City’s downtown Inlet parking lot and it was

The council had some concerns over the event being held so close to Sunfest and the possible complications involved with Ocean City’s major fall event.

Also, the council did not feel comfortable with the portion of costs that Sutherland offered to reimburse the town. The total cost to the town to hold the event was around $135,000. Sutherland offered to reimburse the town $70,000, leaving a difference of $65,000.

Sutherland was interested in buying Delmarva Bike Week from the event owners, the Bennett family or at least inking some sort of partnership arrangement. Unfortunately, without the council feeling comfortable in moving forward with “OC Jam” at that time, Sutherland was unable to strike a deal with the Bennetts.

During this week’s Mayor and City Council meeting, Sutherland and his team approached the Mayor and City Council in another attempt to make a bike week event work in Ocean City. This time he proposed the title “OC BikeFest”, a reimbursement of $85,000 to the town, but the dates would remain the same, Sept. 15-18.

“We are trying to create an event to draw people here,” Sutherland said. “They [Bennett family] are making a real effort to draw people away from here, to Salisbury.”

Sutherland admitted that “OC BikeFest” is going to struggle with identification in competing with Delmarva Bike Week. He hopes to join forces with Delmarva Bike Week by becoming a sponsor.

Aside from Sutherland’s event, the only other large-scale bike week event is planned to be held at Seacrets, which annually hosts vendors and plans special biker events.

Councilman Brent Ashley said that the event will cost the city $50,000 and struggled with how the event was going to benefit Ocean City even more than Delmarva Bike Week already does.

“Ocean City Harley Davidson leaving this area is extremely significant,” Sutherland said. “To take 150 vendors away from here and to have over 400 vendors in Salisbury and Seaford, that is the event.”

Sutherland said “OC BikeFest’s” goal is to create an energy that will replace Delmarva Bike Week in Ocean City.

Councilwoman Mary Knight agreed that “OC BikeFest” will bring tourism to Ocean City. She asserted that the event’s website will become more successful than Delmarva Bike Week’s website due to Ocean City’s mass social media coverage. She used Ocean City’s Facebook page as an example, which has over 400,000 friends. The town’s website and the Chamber of Commerce’s website would also have a direct link to “OC BikeFest.”

“I truly believe that you will bring a stellar event, something that I really haven’t seen from that other family that you mentioned,” Knight said.

Councilman Doug Cymek still held concern over whether “OC BikeFest” could be moved out of the Inlet lot in time for Sunfest to move in.

“I just want to make sure we are covered for our costs as they are incurred,” Cymek said.

Sutherland countered, saying, “I am not concerned one bit about us being out. We will be out by midnight that is not a problem.”

Mayor Rick Meehan believes it’s wise for the resort to have a large gathering area for bikers.

“The bikes are going to be here anyway and I don’t think that is going to change,” he said. “I think it is a good idea for us to take advantage of that.”

The mayor also pointed out the positive aspect that the event will be held in the commercial area of downtown Ocean City.

“I don’t think it will be as encouraging to drive up and down Coastal Highway all the time,” he said. “It will be more focused driving downtown and driving back out going to some of the other venues.”

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas was not in favor of the event due to the fact that “OC BikeFest” will include vendors, which is a potential decrease in revenue for the Boardwalk’s businesses.

“Yes we do benefit from festivals but we do not benefit from vendors going against us,” Pillas said. “I can tell you that the merchants are not happy.”

Knight made the motion to accept “OC BikeFest” and was seconded by Cymek. The motion passed in a vote of 4-3 with Council President Jim Hall, Pillas and Ashley in opposition.

“I think this is the right time and the right place,” Meehan said. “There is a can-do attitude here in Ocean City…and we can put together a good partnership.”