OCEAN CITY — The inaugural Jellyfish Festival next June took a big step forward this week with a promise from the promoters to bring an event “bigger and stronger than anything we’ve ever seen in Ocean City.”
In April, the Mayor and Council approved a roughly $198,000 investment in the proposed Jellyfish Festival slated for June 2019. The event will feature a town-wide live entertainment festival combined with action sports, family-oriented interactive entertainment and arts and culture. The Jellyfish Festival will utilize the town’s best assets including a state-of-the-art stage on the beach downtown featuring big-time national acts along with other smaller concerts and other activities on the beach and at the Ocean Bowl skatepark and also private venues.
Last week, the Recreation and Parks Committee forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council on the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the town and the event’s three producers. On Monday, the Mayor and Council ultimately approved the document that carefully spells out the town’s responsibilities and those of the producers after raising some questions about exactly where and how the town’s $198,000 investment would be spent.
One of the three main producers of the Jellyfish Festival, Brad Hoffman of Live Wire Media, assured the elected officials the town’s investment would be dedicated to attracting and booking entertainment from a growing list of some of the biggest acts in the country currently.
“We understand the $198,000 will go to top line entertainment that will be bigger and stronger than anything we’ve ever seen in Ocean City,” he said. “Our goal is to put together a quality family event that will bring these kinds of acts back to Ocean City every year.”
Councilman Wayne Hartman started the discussion by asking for some assurances in the MOU that the town’s investment would be dedicated to securing big-time, front-line acts and not be filtered through other entities including the producers themselves possibly, ending up with a watered-down event.
The promotion team is spearheaded by Hoffman and Endless Summer Surf Shop owner and CEO Joe “Salty” Selthoffer. Perhaps the key addition to the impressive Jellyfish Festival production team is Brian Gilpin, whose Illusion Sound and Lighting company has produced major concert events featuring some of the top acts in the country and beyond with state-of-the-art digital concert boards, stages and sound systems with multi-venue capabilities.
Selthoffer said he understood Hartman’s concerns about the use of the town’s funding for the event, but assured the Mayor and Council the Jellyfish Festival, largely utilizing Gilpin’s vast contacts, the money would be well-spent when the finished product comes to light.
“I know what you’re saying exactly,” he said. “I know where you want your big-time dollars allocated and it has to be the appearance fees for the entertainment. The big component of this is our partner Brian Gilpin. Brian owns the biggest production company on the right side of America and he does 660 shows a year.”
Selthoffer said he spoke with Gilpin just before Monday’s meeting and came away with a working list of major acts already interested, if not committed, to the June 21-23, 2019 event.
“Thirty minutes ago, I said ‘Brian, who are we looking at? Who have you been in contact with?’” he said. “He reeled off a list of big time acts he has been in contact with and said everyone he named, everybody he has talked to and mentioned the Jellyfish Festival for June 2019 on the sand oceanfront in Ocean City has said we’re in.”
Selt reeled off a list of major entertainment acts covering several genres with whom Gilpin has had direct contact that have at least tacitly committed to coming to the Jellyfish Festival in Ocean City next June. From the Christian rock side, he named Big Daddy Weave, Skillet and Switchfoot, for example, which would likely perform on the main stage on the beach on Sunday of the event.
He also named an impressive list of major acts for the main stage on Friday and Saturday night of the event including possibly the Foo Fighters, Journey, the Beach Boys, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins and Charlie Daniels. Later in the presentation, Hoffman also mentioned the possibility of Earth Wind and Fire performing during the event.
Hartman, who chairs the Recreation and Parks Committee that approved the MOU last week, said from the onset he wanted to see a clear direction for how the town’s investment in the event was being spent, particularly that he wanted it dedicated to securing big-time national acts and not being filtered through other channels.
“Is the $198,000 going to be strictly for covering the entertainers and not necessarily other entities that support the entertainers?” he said. “If we do pay for support services, can we make sure they’re not paid to entities that are owned or regulated by the producers putting on the festival? This is no reflection on these guys, it’s just learning from history and I think it’s important to do that … I just want to make sure this money is being used to bring in entertainment above and beyond what we typically see at Sunfest or Springfest, that we bring in acts that are going to make a memory and keep bringing people back year after year. What I don’t want to see is things that have happened in the past where we’ve had contracts with people and other entities they own pay themselves maybe more than market value.”
Selthoffer assured Hartman and the rest of the council the primary goal was bringing in the best national acts the producers, and the town by association, could bring within the constraints of the budget in the first year and by utilizing Gilpin’s vast contacts and relationships.
“Our goal right now is to work within the parameters of our budget and try to find a big act for Friday, a big act for Saturday and a Christian act on Sunday,” he said. “We need to work within our budget constraints to bring the most people to Ocean City. An example could be the Beach Boys on Friday night, Michael Franti on Saturday night and Big Daddy Weave on Sunday night. This is the formula that is going to take weeks if not months of planning until we come up with a concept that will draw the most people to this event.”
The common theme throughout the discussion was bringing in acts that met the stated family-friendly goals for the event. During last week’s discussion of the MOU at the Recreation and Parks Committee level, committee members wanted assurances there would be some oversight for the town on the types of acts that would be included and the MOU presented and ultimately approved on Monday covers that with the producers and Special Events Director Frank Miller and Tourism Director Donna Abbott working closely on each facet of the event.
“We will be working in lockstep with them and everything we do, they will know about,” said Hoffman. “We’re working with them on a daily and weekly basis to be totally transparent on the entertainment we’re looking at and what those costs are and how that $198,000 is being used to put on a big show on the beach. We’re dedicated to that. There is no way we’re setting anything up that is disingenuous to the town we live in. There has to be a certain amount of trust here and we appreciate that trust and the opportunity to do this.”