BERLIN – Holiday activities in Berlin and Ocean City served as models last week for a city in Texas eager to implement similar programs.
Staff and councilmembers from Forney, a city near Dallas, visited the Eastern Shore during the final days of 2018 to take in Ocean City’s Winterfest of Lights and Berlin’s annual ball drop.
“I believe they left with the confidence they could do many of the things we’re doing in their own style,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “You don’t have to be a large city to do some really nice things.”
Two councilmembers and three city department directors from Forney, a city of about 20,000 people east of Dallas, met with officials in Berlin and Ocean City late last week. The visit came about at the suggestion of Tony Carson, Forney’s city manager.
Carson, who was Berlin’s town administrator from 2009 to 2013, said Forney had a robust system of parks and was interested in offering more special events.
“I recommended going to Berlin because I was confident that once they saw the ball drop it was something we could replicate in Forney,” Carson said, adding that the city was also interested in doing a festival of lights during the holiday season.
Carson said that staff and elected officials in Berlin and Ocean City — where Forney officials visited Winterfest and met with Special Events Director Frank Miller and Councilmember Mary Knight — had been extremely helpful in answering questions and offering advice regarding their events.
In Berlin, Williams met with the visitors, as did Town Administrator Laura Allen and a variety of department heads.
“They were here to learn how we organize, plan and promote our town events,” Williams said.
He took them on a walking tour of the town and Ivy Wells, the town’s economic and community development director, provided them with examples of rack cards and promotional materials. Tim Lawrence, the town’s electric utility director, spoke with the visitors regarding the mechanics of the ball drop itself.
“They see all this is doable and doesn’t cost a fortune but you do have to plan,” Williams said.
Williams said he was happy to entertain visitors interested in Berlin.
“We learn from each other,” he said. “That’s one thing I like about elected public service. We’re not in competition with anyone. We all learn from each other. Sharing information, as the world grows smaller, we have more and more opportunities to do that. To be as effective as you can you need to reach out.”
He added that the delegation from Forney had also been helpful to Berlin officials, as they’d recently added a new park to the city’s amenities and were able to provide advice on the process for Berlin Falls Park.