Council OKs Earlier Springfest Vendor Closing

OCEAN CITY – Next May’s Springfest will see some changes with the arts and crafts and food tents closing two hours earlier upon vendors request.
The move will serve as a test to permanently change hours for both Springfest and Sunfest events in the future.
Special Event Manager Frank Miller requested the Mayor and City Council’s approval this week of an earlier closing time for vendors in the arts and crafts tents and food tent at Springfest in 2014, and a slight vendor rate increase to cover tent security for up to three hours during the evenings of the event.
According to Miller, for some time, there has been discussion among special events staff to allow arts and crafts vendors at Springfest and Sunfest to close earlier than 10 p.m.
During this year’s Sunfest, staff asked the vendors for feedback by survey and 80 percent of the vendors responded they want to close early at 8 p.m., due to the lack of traffic once the live entertainment starts.
However, there is concern over security of vendor spaces while patrons are still on the ground for the concerts. The vendors suggested increasing vendor fees by $5 to cover the added cost of security.
According to Miller, rates have remained flat since 2008. A $5 increase would cover the cost of adding eight staff security positions from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday evenings.
Staff would be acquired through the Ocean City Beach Patrol, which would keep the public out of the main tents and away from the midway exhibitors who choose to close early. The Ocean City Police Department will still maintain the grounds as usual during the entertainment hours and post-event.
The midway area is the vending space in the middle of festival grounds closest to the entertainment area. The area contains mostly commercial or re-sale items versus handmade items that are positioned in the arts and crafts tents. Miller proposed those in the midway area will not be required to close at 8 p.m. but will have the option to stay open until 10 p.m.
Miller added the change will close down on-site access to food and beverage within the festival grounds, encouraging patrons to use Boardwalk concessions for the later entertainment hours. Alcohol vendors may remain open as part of the midway to service the entertainment tent patrons.
If the early closing time is a success during Springfest 2014, the same procedure will be considered for Sunfest 2015. The delay in implementation is due to the 2014 Sunfest processes already being well underway by the conclusion of Springfest.
Councilman Joe Mitrecic, who is the chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission, stated the alternative has been discussed at the subcommittee level and approved by the commission. He added the other 20 percent of the vendors who completed the survey weren’t necessarily against closing early but were giving early times or later to close, or didn’t comment at all.
“Most of the vendors you talk to don’t have the opportunity to enjoy Ocean City at all. To go out to dinner or something like that because they are tied up at the tent all night,” he said. “I think this is the right thing to do, and I think it will be a big success.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the request.