Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – November 17, 2017

The Ocean City lodging industry is extremely dependent on the motorized vehicle events for revenue in the shoulder months. That fact is why the city will be hard pressed to ever do away with them entirely without a major revolt from the business community.

The hope here is that Ocean City will by introducing new special events, enforcing stringent laws that make it uncomfortable for the rowdy types and instituting major changes on the town’s roadways to create a new wave of momentum that lessens the importance of car shows to the local economy. It’s going to take time.

The idea of events to replace the vehicle events came under the heading of “replacement special events” in an “Ocean City Motor Events Action Plan,” which came out of the town’s police commission. The plan states, “Ocean City is a safe, clean and green family resort featuring a world class beach, boardwalk and healthy community for residents and guests. … Certain motor event attendees are violating our values and changing our long held reputation as a family resort. Immediate action is required to reverse this undesired trend of lawlessness, civil disobedience and disrespect for our town.”

I agree wholeheartedly with that statement and support new events to lessen the dependency on these vehicle events. The problem will be the requirement for patience on the business community’s part if vehicle events are squeezed out of town. The situation, as I see it, is the majority of the Mayor and Council will not at this time have the stomach to follow through on what the police commission was seeking in its action plan, which essentially sought to end H2Oi in September and Cruisin in May and October.

Therefore, I think the short term plan should be making life as miserable as possible for the violators who come here with the intention to disrupt and ignore the typical norms of societal decency. Drastic measures should be taken to ensure they find Ocean City to be a difficult place.

That’s why this week’s news of the film festival coming back for a second year and the addition of four lacrosse tournament weekends and an additional cheerleading event should be embraced.

Councilman John Gehrig had it right when he pointed out the obvious intent to migrate away from a dependency on events that run counter to the stated goal of Ocean City being a family resort.

“These are the types of things we need as we rebrand Ocean City with a nice cultural event and youth sports activities at the time we need them,” he said. “When we talk about replacement, this is what we’re talking about.”

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Along those lines, Rehoboth Beach has hit it big with its Sea Witch Festival weekend, which is held the last weekend in October and features a huge costume parade, a scavenger hunt, music festival and 5K race. It’s the busiest weekend in the off-season for that resort area with estimates of more than 100,000 people coming to the shore.

A veteran hotelier in Rehoboth compared it to Ocean City’s St. Patrick’s parade weekend festivities. It’s the highlight of the off-season. It started small 28 years ago and has grown through community support and visitor interest.

The Octoberfest events held over two weekends in October are solid draws for Ocean City, especially if the weekends are nice as they were this year. The promoter – Special Event Productions – has done a fine job of creating a series of events that create excitement and interest among the local residents as well as the community.

In a time when Ocean City is trying to lessen its dependence on motorized events to boost shoulder season business, anything and everything should be considered. The foundation is in place for taking these Halloween weekends to another level. Growing the Drive & Disguise Parade that’s typically held the weekend before the Sea Witch events in Rehoboth could be a possible growth area.

As it stands now, the vehicle parade that runs from 27th Street south to N. Division Street is a great event that has grown over the years. Increasing interest through diversifying the lineup further and getting more businesses interested could help grow it significantly.

Wouldn’t it be great if the last two weekends in October turned into major economic events for the resort? It may sound silly at this point, but the folks in Rehoboth understand it’s entirely possible.

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Ocean City officials continued this week to stress the critical need for Route 90 to be the next priority state infrastructure project once Route 113’s dualization is completed next year. They finally heard a straightforward message this week from the state.

SHA District Engineer Jay Meredith said, “It’s going to take some time. Right now, there are no studies being done, but it is something we’re going to look at. … We really want to make that strong emphasis that you want Route 90 advanced. It’s a complicated project and there won’t be a quick turnaround, but we want you to know it isn’t on the back burner.”

In other words, feel free to keep on asking but nothing is going to change anytime soon. Meredith didn’t say this, but I think it would also help if the Worcester County Commissioners agreed with the city’s stance. There’s no indication from Snow Hill that’s the case at this time.

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.