Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

Over the last month, a firestorm of controversy has embroiled the OC Car and Truck Show, which has been held at the Roland E. Powell Convention in June for the last 12 years. At the heart of the issue is the belief held by some business owners and elected officials that the show was one of the reasons for the well-documented upheaval that took place the first full weekend in June.

Up until this week, most of the concerns have been privately expressed with the exception of a slew of comments made on a thread on this paper’s Facebook page about a stabbing on the Boardwalk in June. That thread was eventually removed because the content took an obscene turn toward inaccurate, extreme accusations not germane to the topic at hand.

Similar tensions played out this week when former Councilman Joe Hall brought the fiery issue back to the surface. Via email, Hall wrote the Mayor and Council, City Manager David Recor, this newspaper editor and others about a recent conversation he had with Fager’s Island owner John Fager, who believes the city should not be renting space at the convention center to the Car and Truck Show any longer. Here’s an unedited look at a part of Hall’s email.

“He said that the car show brought wrong completion people to town. That crime all of june was due to the twelve year old car show that’s never had a police call. Or bad report. I told him he was wrong and he should target a fellow family business person. I would stand silent. I said looking in his eyes. If you continue to bash brads car show without facts I will get my own facts on what happens at bar closing on 60th street. He said he didn’t take kindly to threats and he still oposed car show. I said fine and we parted. … I don’t threaten. If there is family image issue in town. Its not any of the car shows. Drunks run over is good start. I’ve have no problem going out on street and tapeing and pics some real family image problems. Lets gather facts. I going too,” he wrote.

Unclear if the email was meant as a letter to the editor, which Hall said later it was not, Fager laid out his concerns with the car and truck event in response.

“If anyone wants facts about the impact on Ocean City and the socioeconomic class of visitors that this event drew, I invite you to check out the star and featured performer that the attendees came to see.  Google "Fat Joe", a thug type rapper, who in his video "My Life" is very honest about who he is: drugs, gangs, violence, murder, complete disrespect for women, etc.,” Fager wrote. “Then imagine what type of visitor this guy would attract. And he did. These are the people the car show markets to. It does not belong in this town and I am disturbed that the Convention Center would allow it to be booked.”

Reached yesterday, promoter Brad Hoffman said he takes umbrage with the criticism of his show by members of the community and Mayor and Council members. Hoffman believes his event has been made a “scapegoat” unfairly for the problems that existed in June and that the facts back up his belief.

“We are very proud of our event, and proud of our record of no issues over 12 years. We have a great record of having a defined event with no issues,” he said. “My show is not inappropriate for Ocean City, and it’s supported by major corporate sponsors. It’s unfair to arbitrarily place problems in town on my event, and that’s what some members of the Mayor and Council are doing.”

Regarding the lead entertainer at last month’s event, Hoffman said critics do not understand the extent of the entertainment offered each year.

“It’s basically a meet-and-greet where they sign autographs and then they play two songs and those guys are gone. The people at my show are families, car enthusiasts and people who are not problematic. We have 3,500 people to town for our entire event, about 1 percent of the people in town, and about 800 were there for the music. The entertainment is one small component of. It’s 45 minutes of a nine-hour event,” he said. “The crowd is not problematic, and everyone who works at the convention center knows that. There were no problems with the show. My event is no more to blame than the Air Show, lacrosse tournament, the surf contest or Fager’s Island … there is no history of problems with our event in town. The police department knows that and there are no facts to prove otherwise. The bigger picture is we all have to work together to get our town under control during those times, if there are people causing it to get out of control. Those are not the people at my show. We need a better offense and a better plan from the city when June gets here.”

Hoffman relayed one story involving a convention center employee, who reported she would have much rather had her children at the Car and Truck Show that weekend than on the Boardwalk where they were.

It’s clear to Hoffman the event has gotten caught up in the testy and divisive political culture that exists in Ocean City at the moment.

“I don’t deserve to be a pawn in a political fight … I feel slandered to a degree. I don’t deserve to be. For no apparent reason, I have been brought into this political tug-o-war. I like all the Mayor and Council members, and I like John Fager and Joe Hall. There is a misperception of my event and everyone is invited to come and visit. I’m proud of our event. I’ve been very pro-active to make it a safe, friendly event, one that I am proud to have my family attend and friends of my family.”

Hoffman said he is currently working to sign his contract for next year’s show at the convention center and has no reason to believe it will not be inked like it always has.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.