Frigid Weather Spell Slows Winterfest’s Record Pace

OCEAN CITY — The frigid temperatures of late curtailed what was heading toward a record-breaking year for Winterfest of Lights in its 25th season, but the final numbers still held fairly close to the most recent record-breakers.

Ocean City’s Winterfest of Lights wrapped up its 25th year on New Year’s Eve with a fireworks display and other special events culminating in another highly successful season for the centerpiece of the resort’s holiday experience. Despite freezing conditions with temperatures dropping into the teens and even single digits on some occasions, big crowds were reported during the final weekend of Winterfest of Lights. However, the temperatures and often snowy, rainy weather over the final weekends of the annual festival prevented Winterfest 2017 from reaching lofty visitor totals seen in recent years.

The record was set in 2015 when near perfect weather for the duration of the event resulted in nearly 127,000 visitors going through the attraction. In 2016, 111,052 visitors went through Winterfest of Lights, almost identically mirroring the 111,042 that went through Winterfest in 2014.

Special Events Director Frank Miller said this week all of those totals, including the 2015 record-breaker, were attainable as Winterfest hit its stride heading into Christmas week and New Year’s Eve, but the weather conspired to keep the numbers just a little short. When all was said and done last Sunday, 109,210 visitors had gone through Winterfest of Lights in 2017.

“The 25th anniversary Winterfest of Lights event started to outpace our record year of 2015 until we hit the second week of December with cold temperatures, snow and rain,” he said. “With the colder temperatures and related weather holding on, we quickly lost pace with 2015, but remained ahead of 2014 and 2016. It wasn’t until the final two days of the event and the very cold temperatures that we finally fell behind those previously mentioned years.”

west o bottle shop

Nonetheless, Miller said the new and improved Winterfest of Lights on its 25th anniversary, with improved displays and amenities in the Winterfest Pavilion, was once again a huge success.

“The 25th anniversary event and the revamped heated Winterfest Pavilion seemed to generate positive comments from our guests, as did the new animated 50-foot Christmas tree,” he said. “Although the staple elements still carried the weight on activities inside the pavilion, from Kris Kringle’s Corner, the Marlin Market Place, the Booster’s hot chocolate stand and the glow products sales locations, there were many new assets as well. Topping the list were the new 12-foot poinsettia tree and the three five-foot poinsettia trees and a myriad of Christmas trees, many of which resided within a fenced courtyard.”

Miller said his department specifically and the town in general would continue to improve on Ocean City’s centerpiece holiday event going forward.

“2018 will also be a year of some new changes, some of which will be decorative and some operational,” he said. “We hope to continue to provide our guests with something new to see annually from this year on.”

During Tuesday’s Mayor and Council meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan praised the special events department for pulling off another highly successful Winterfest of Lights and the associated New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“I want to thank special events and Frank Miller for what was a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration at Northside Park,” he said. “It was very chilly to say the least, but there was a large crowd in the tent and even a large crowd outside.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

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.