OCEAN CITY — It appears the H2O International car show, fairly or not deemed the black sheep of motorized special events in the Ocean City area, has found a new home in Atlantic City for 2018 and perhaps beyond.
For years, the H2O International (H2Oi) event, self-billed as the “laid back” two-day Volkswagen and Audi event, was held at Fort Whaley campground on Route 50 west of Berlin. Unofficially the annual event took place on the streets of Ocean City, especially Coastal Highway informally called “the strip” by attendees.
To be fair, it’s important to note the H2Oi event was never sanctioned by the Town of Ocean City nor did it bill itself as an event held in the resort. However, in recent years, the annual event typically held in late September and early October has been associated with lawlessness and recklessness that spurred the creation of a task force to begin exploring ways to curb some of the illicit behavior associated with some of the motorized special events.
The H2Oi event has been labeled the black sheep of the motorized special events amid a flock of events that aren’t all entirely squeaky clean. The official H2Oi event at Fort Whaley was well-organized, generally calm and peaceful and included the Volkswagen and Audi enthusiast “family” that registered and participated in the sanctioned events.
However, like many of the special events, it was the thousands of non-registered participants who came to the resort during that weekend with all manner of tricked-out and modified vehicles that did not register for H2Oi that caused most of the problems in Ocean City.
For example, when the formal, sanctioned event was postponed last fall over venue issues and logistical problems, thousands of tricked-out vehicles came to Ocean City anyway. The late September weekend was marred with the kind of recklessness and general disregard for the law and disrespect to the town that, in part, triggered the creation of a special task force to explore methods to eliminate, or at least curtail, some of the activities associated with the motorized events.
Ironically, it was learned during the third motorized special event task force meeting this week that the official H2Oi event has found a new home in Atlantic City. Mayor Rick Meehan made the announcement near the end of Wednesday’s task force meeting. Meehan later explained in a little more detail his understanding of the apparent move.
“It is my understanding that a contract has been signed with Showboat in Atlantic City to move the official event to that location,” he said. “The move would make sense because the Showboat can offer a large venue that we do not have in Ocean City to accommodate the growing number of participants who attend this event. It could also be a more centrally located venue considering the long distances some participants travel to get to Ocean City.”
For his part, H2Oi promoter Jay Shoup, when reached on Wednesday afternoon, gave a firm “no comment” when asked about the move and the new location.
Meehan said on Thursday the apparent deal to move H2Oi to Atlantic City was in the best interest of all parties and harbored no sour grapes with the formal event.
“This would be a positive change for both Ocean City and the H2Oi event considering the challenges we have all faced in recent years,” he said. “We wish the promoter and the event success in their new location.”
During Wednesday’s task force meeting, Meehan suggested the new venue for H2Oi at the Showboat in Atlantic City represented a positive move for all involved and again pointed to the hangers-on that cause most of the issues in Ocean City.
“I want to thank the promoter for recognizing Ocean City is not compatible with this event,” he said. “I don’t think he ever intended that event to grow like it did with all of the tag-alongs. I think they believe the other site will be more compatible for their event. I certainly hope so and I wish them all the best.”
Earlier in the week, the H2Oi promoter issued a scathing statement chastising the town, its elected officials, law enforcement, the public in general and the media for its unfair characterization of the event during its multi-year run in Ocean City. In light of the information that came out later in the week, that statement now appears to be a parting shot.
The statement from H2Oi points out the event has absolutely nothing to do with Ocean City and the lawlessness and disrespect was caused by hangers-on and tag-alongs that were out of the organizer’s control. The statement calls H2Oi one of the largest VW-Audi events in the world and one of the best produced events of its kind.
It also takes shots at some of the other motorized special events, particularly the spring Cruisin event, which is often marked by the same type of lawless and reckless behavior, but is not regarded in the same light as H2Oi. It also points out the Cruisin organizers have been invited to the task force table to discuss possible solutions while H2Oi has not and, fairly or not, has been branded as the black sheep. In addition, H2Oi blames the media and the public for its perceived unfair characterizations of the organized and official event.