OCEAN CITY – The annual Audi/VW event will come to the Ocean City area in early October this year, appealing to the Town of Ocean City’s request to separate the occasion from the resort’s famous Sunfest. However, the announcement of the event’s official date change came with a stern message.
Over the weekend, H2O International (H2Oi) announced via social media it will be taking place the weekend of Oct. 3-4.
According to H2Oi organizer Jay Shoup, the event will annually take place the weekend following Ocean City’s own annual event, Sunfest, which will take place Sept. 24-27, 2015. H2Oi will also come the weekend prior to the annual Ocean City-sanctioned event, Endless Summer Cruisin’, which will occur Oct. 7-11, 2015.
H2Oi took place September 27-28 last year. That was the weekend after Sunfest last year. The event is a two-day VW/Audi rally that is held at Fort Whaley outside of Ocean City where, according to Shoup, on average 800 to 1,000 cars register to be shown. However, the unsanctioned event with Ocean City draws thousands of spectators to the resort where cars and spectators gather in commercial parking lots and along Coastal Highway.
When the event comes to town, residents and visitors have avoided the area all together while rally participants and spectators form in rowdy crowds leaving behind streets and parking lots full of trash.
Every year behavior has become more and more of a concern for Ocean City law enforcement, and last year it seemed hit its peak with multiple videos of street fights surfaced on YouTube as well as the event’s social media outlets mocking the Ocean City Police Department. Additionally, videos of vehicles were posted showing a ruckus scene at town parking lots, such as the convention center, which had to be closed off altogether due to public safety worries.
Shoup announced 2015’s official dates over the weekend on Facebook, along with the attached message, “H2Oi and the VW/Audi community has become family to me. I have been building H2Oi for almost 18 years and I am saddened that I have to draft a letter that contains such content. To the ones who think H2Oi is a ‘free for all’, and no rules or laws exist while attending H2Oi and staying in Ocean City, MD., I hope to make this crystal clear. I don’t want you, the VW/Audi community doesn’t want you, and Ocean City doesn’t want you, so please stay home if you cannot control yourself and act like normal, respectful adults. I have told the Ocean City Police Department and the Maryland State Police to ticket, impound and arrest any fool who cannot obey the same laws that I am expected to obey.”
Shoup went on to remind event followers that H2Oi is a VW/Audi exclusive event.
“Many of us are car enthusiasts, and it seems as though the issues have come from the ‘import scene’ and/or cars/people that have no reason to attend and have nothing to do with the VW/Audi community,” Shoup stated. “H2Oi is a positive event. We have supported the community and charities for years. I would like to think H2Oi has brought some great things and will continue to do so…I promise to continue to provide this great event with your assistance to make it known that the nonsense will not be tolerated.”
The Town of Ocean City has acknowledged each year the working relationship between the town and Shoup has grown stronger in attempting to control bad behavior.
“The Town of Ocean City has a great working relationship with the organizers of the H2Oi event. Their flexibility to move the event date for 2015, to not interfere with Sunfest, demonstrates their partnership and teamwork. They have also been, and continue to be, great promoters of safety and encouraged both event participants and spectators to conduct themselves in a respectful and safe manner on and off our roadways,” Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters said on Monday. “Unfortunately, over the past few years, it seems as though the number of spectators who come for the weekend of the event have increased, along with their lack of respect for the town and the local laws and ordinances. The Ocean City Police Department will continue their strict enforcement of unsafely modified cars as well as unsafe driving behaviors but they are also working to improve the overall relationship with the event spectators.”
Waters furthered everyone is welcome to Ocean City with the expectation that they will be considerate of residents and visitors, follow the laws and ordinances and treat the town as if it was their own.
“Safety is our number one priority and we will continue to work together with H2Oi promoters and spectators to make sure it is a fun weekend, but more importantly a safe weekend for everyone,” Waters said.
When H2Oi took place in the Ocean City area last year, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) reported a total of 2,148 calls for service with 1,547 being officer initiated and 601 being citizen initiated over the weekend. There were 51 total arrests with three being drugs arrests, three weapon arrests and five DUIs.
The number of arrests has declined over the past few years despite the growth in the event. However, the number of calls for service has increased. In 2013, there were a total 2,003 calls for service and 54 arrests. In 2012, there were a total of 1,524 calls for service and 66 arrests.
“The Ocean City Police Department is aware of the dates that have been established for the 2015 H2O International event. Although this event officially takes place outside of the Town of Ocean City, we understand that many of the event participants frequent Ocean City,” OCPD Lt. Scott Harner said on Monday. “While we welcome all visitors to the Town of Ocean City, we welcome everyone with the expectation that they will be law abiding. The safety of our residents and visitors is paramount and we will be asking for assistance from our allied law enforcement partners to provide appropriate oversight during this and other large events throughout the summer.”