Resort Hoping To Draw Visitors From National Folk Festival

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City could get the alternative post-Labor Day special event it is looking for next fall when it piggybacks on the major National Folk Festival in Salisbury.

During last week’s Tourism Committee meeting, members got an overview of the National Folk Festival coming to Salisbury this September. For decades, the National Folk Festival has traveled around to different cities across the nation and it is coming to Salisbury for a three-year run beginning in September. It is the longest-running multicultural traditional arts celebration in the country, featuring multiple stages of continuous music, a dance pavilion, traditional arts and crafts, regional food, storytelling and other folk demonstrations.

“It features traditional art, music and culture passed on through generations,” Salisbury Local Manager Caroline O’Hare told the Tourism Committee last Monday. “Each host city features its own art and culture in so many ways. We’re really going to focus on the Chesapeake and the Eastern Shore’s maritime culture this year.”

Each host city retains the National Folk Festival for three years with Salisbury hosting the event in each of the next three Septembers. When the three-year run is over, the National Folk Festival moves on to its next city, but a local legacy festival featuring the same types of events and activities remains in place for many years after.

O’Hare told resort tourism officials this week the Salisbury event is expected to attract 75,000 to 100,000 visitors in the first year alone. That number is expected to swell to around 132,000 in the second year and 150,000-plus by year three.

“Attendees come from 200 to 300 miles away or more and many make it an extended weeklong getaway,” she said. “Of course, they’re going to go to Ocean City. Wicomico doesn’t have the room capacity to hold all of those people.”

She said those numbers could swell because of Salisbury’s close proximity to the major metropolitan areas along the East Coast and Ocean City could be a direct benefactor.

“We’re in a unique position here because we’re so close to so many big metropolitan areas,” she said. “Thousands of people seek out this event, and when they’re here, they are going to check out all of the other things to see and do in the area. It really is an opportunity to showcase everything we have here. In the long history of this event, this is the first time it will be in Maryland.”

Ocean City Tourism Director Donna Abbott said the town has already committed $10,000 to marketing the event in partnership with Worcester and Wicomico Counties. Abbott said the plan is to put together attractive hotel rental packages to draw festival attendees to the resort area.

“We’re going to meet with the hotels and start putting together some packages,” she said. “This is something we will be marketing all summer. We’ll start an active marketing campaign to really tap into these thousands of visitors to the area.”

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.