There were mixed reactions to this week’s announced entertainment lineup for the inaugural Jellyfish Festival in Ocean City.
While we were generally underwhelmed by the lineup based on the buildup over the last year and assurances bigger names would be landed, we support the festival and believe this could be just the type of event Ocean City needs to address some reputation concerns, especially for the month of June.
Nonetheless, we understand why there was much online displeasure expressed over the lineup announced. Most of the disappointment simply has to do with what organizers promised last year in an attempt to secure the Town of Ocean City’s $198,000 sponsorship, which came with a requirement that the financial support would be used solely on booking high-profile bands the area has never seen before. Of the list of entertainers announced this week, there are only a handful who have not performed in this region previously. In fact, we would argue the most impressive acts booked for the festival will appear on the final day of the event that has been reserved for Christian music.
When questioned by then-Coucilman Wayne Hartman last year about what types of bands the city could expect in exchange for the sponsorship, festival organizers mentioned the Foo Fighters, Journey, the Beach Boys, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins, Charlie Daniels and Earth Wind and Fire. Those groups, a few of which have already played here, come with large asking prices and evidently turned out to be too expensive. Festival organizers preferred to focus on a solid quantity of quality acts to fill out the weekend over one super band booking. In the end, that viewpoint makes sense and gives the festival the best chance to succeed. It’s a shame, however, that expectations were raised to such a high level beforehand.
Furthermore, and most importantly, it’s critical to note this event weekend will be about much more than just music. We caution expressing too much angst over the individual bands named this week. This event will be a weekend celebration featuring a family-friendly festival village with freestyle motorcross shows, surfing contests, a beach fitness zone, a kids interactive art and music zone and a fat tire beach bike zone. All the while bands will be performing on the beach.
To many, this festival will resemble a smaller-scaled Dew Tour, which was held in Ocean City from 2010 to 2014. The Dew Tour transformed the beach north of the Pier – where the Jellyfish Festival will be held – into an impressive extreme sports village with professional athletes competing throughout the weekend. The Jellyfish Festival will feature many of the same types of components with a lot more music than the Dew Tour offered while not having the level of professional athletic competitions.
Though some have questioned a government sponsorship of a privately organized festival, we think the city’s investment was a wise one. The festival needed the financial support in its first year and will likely need some level of public funding for years to come. The event will follow the OC Air Show in June, setting up what could be major back-to-back weekends for Ocean City and its business community. We think this will be a successful new event that will prove to be a draw this summer with the potential to grow annually as the brand picks up credibility and notoriety within the music industry.