Ocean City Fireworks Start Time Debated Again

OCEAN CITY — A review of the town’s value-added special events this week could spur a return of the summer fireworks shows in the downtown area to the traditional start time of 10 p.m.

During Monday’s Tourism Committee meeting, members continued a discussion on the successes and shortcomings of some of the town’s value-added special events, such as the nightly fireworks shows, the 100 Nights of Lights displays, free beach movies, family beach Olympics, and Sundaes in the Park, for example. The debate largely centered on whether the added-value events were successful in providing free or low-cost alternatives to visitors with a positive patron experience and a diversity of options while upholding the town’s image and branding.

Out of that larger debate came a renewed discussion about the start time for the downtown fireworks shows during the peak summer season. Last year after an often-contentious debate, the downtown fireworks show start time was moved to 10:30 p.m., representing a compromise of sorts.

Some advocated moving the fireworks to 11 p.m. to keep business flowing on the Boardwalk and provide a type of crescendo on the typical summer evening. Some business owners voiced concern the 10 p.m. start time came during their peak times and many patrons left the stores to go out and watch the fireworks shows.

During Monday’s committee meeting, the debate began anew. Committee members discussed moving the start time back to 10 p.m. after some business owners voiced complaints about the new start time.

“It was always 10 p.m., but it was moved last year to 10:30 p.m.,” said Special Events Director Frank Miller. “Now, some business owners are coming back and saying 10:30 p.m. is too late.”

Bob Rothermel of TEAM Productions, which produced the Boardwalk fireworks shows, said he heard the opposite from many.

“A lot of people said 10:30 p.m. was better,” he said. “It allowed for the audience to build throughout the night.”

Committee member Todd Ferrante said families with young children said 11 p.m. was definitely too late and the 10:30 p.m. start time last summer was not much better.

“How late can you keep these kids out for fireworks?” he said. “What time are they getting home after the shows start at 10:30 and they still have to get back to their cars and drive back to where they’re staying.”

Council Secretary and Tourism Committee Chair Mary Knight said when she worked the information kiosk on the Boardwalk, the general consensus from visitors was that the 10:30 p.m. start time was too late for many families.

“When I was in the info booth, I think 90 percent of the people who came up complained 10:30 p.m. was too late,” she said. “The tourists were very concerned about the 10:30 p.m. start time.”

One of the complaints last year with the 10 p.m. start time was that store patrons would drop what they were going to buy and left the businesses with the first launch. Ferrante, who owns a Boardwalk jewelry store, agreed somewhat with that assessment.

“It does happen,” he said. “People do leave the store when the fireworks go off.”

Committee member Stephanie Meehan, who operates a Boardwalk arcade, said it cuts both ways sometimes.

“When they started at 10 p.m., people would come back in when they were over,” she said. “When they start at 10:30 p.m., they’re heading home. It’s a tough call.”

After considerable debate, the committee voted to forward the discussion back to the Mayor and Council for further review.

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.