This week’s dialogue on fireworks and special events among Ocean City business owners, tourism officials and the Mayor and Council revealed some interesting and diverse thoughts.
Although concerns have been expressed privately the last couple summers, this was the first we have heard public comments being made about the negative impact the weekly fireworks shows have on commerce on the Boardwalk. A few summers ago, the town began offering short fireworks displays at 10 p.m. during July and August on Mondays and Tuesdays to boost attendance during traditionally quiet evenings. The idea is to give visitors who have already chosen Ocean City as their vacation destination some free family entertainment to enjoy while here.
While the intentions are sound, the business owners’ concerns expressed this week deserve serious consideration. The thought of dozens of shoppers waiting in line to pay for their goods at the Boardwalk Quiet Storm store immediately leaving behind their planned purchases when the fireworks start to boom is disturbing. Other restaurateurs along the Boardwalk confirm on Mondays and Tuesdays during the summer their places empty out for the fireworks.
In this case, the city decision makers have to take the good with the bad and evaluate before making a decision. There was ample opportunity to do just that this week. After hearing all sides of the argument, including those who wish if there have to be fireworks that they be fired at 11 p.m., we think a start time of 10:30 p.m. would have been a reasonable compromise. A motion on that failed in a 2-4 vote, while keeping the start time at 10 p.m. passed by a 5-1 vote.
If the point of the weekly special events is to add value to the vacation experience, it shouldn’t come at the expense of private business. The city heard that’s exactly what’s happening to at least a handful of businesses in proximity to the fireworks site. In keeping the fireworks at 10 p.m., the city essentially let the operators know their concerns were not enough.
We do agree that 11 p.m. for a fireworks display would be too late for families with young children. Attendance would certainly suffer and guests of hotels and lodging rentals in the area would surely complain about the disturbance.
We believe the twice-a-week fireworks displays have been a welcome addition to Ocean City over the last few years, but there was a middle ground available for the city this week to at least partially address concerns from commercial businesses. If they had moved the fireworks back a half hour, officials would have appeared to have been working with the business community. Instead, by talking and debating about it at length and staying with the status quo, they are ripe for inevitable criticism.