Winterfest Numbers Down From Last Year’s Record Numbers

OCEAN CITY — Winterfest of Lights attendance and revenue figures are falling a little short of last year’s record-breaking season, resort officials learned this week.

At Tuesday’s Recreation and Parks Committee meeting, Special Events Director Frank Miller reported a variety of factors, including the weather, have conspired to keep this year’s Winterfest of Lights figures in terms of attendance and revenue more closely related to the 2014 event, which was a benchmark at the time. However, this year’s event thus far is not matching last year’s Winterfest of Lights, which shattered all previous records thanks largely to Mother Nature.

“It’s running about dead even with 2014,” he said. “Last year was a bit of an anomaly with near-perfect weather and it would be hard to live up to those figures. Take this past weekend, for example. Last year, the temperature was in the mid-50s and this year it was in the mid-30s.”

On many days in November and December last year, the temperatures reached the mid-60s and even the mid-70s. As a result, the 2015 event shattered the 2014 attendance and revenue figures, which had created a new benchmark just a year before.

The numbers certainly bear that out. In 2014, around 111,000 local residents and visitors came through the gates at Northside Park, but last year, the number swelled to over 126,000. The record-breaking crowds last year represented a 14-percent increase over 2014. The 2015 event also shattered the revenue figures for Winterfest.

For example, in 2014, the budget for Winterfest of Lights was $490,000 and the final revenue figure came in at around $514,000. Last year, however, the final revenue figure came in at $644,000, which erased the short-lived record set in 2014.

The weather could continue to create challenges this year. The temperature dropped dramatically Thursday with daytime highs in the 30s and the overnight temperatures expected in the teens. It is expected to warm up somewhat over the weekend, but rain is in the forecast. By Monday, there could be snow in the long-term forecast, all of which could create challenges for Winterfest.

“This coming weekend is going to be variable with the weather forecast,” said Miller. “I’m hopeful our patrons that see us as a family tradition will come out with blankets and endure the cold. On Monday, the long-term forecast calls for snow showers and that can make for a very unique and wonderful Winterfest experience.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.