OCEAN CITY — The working plan for special events in the summer, from fireworks displays to free summer concerts, was unveiled this week with room for enhancements possible.
During Monday’s Tourism Commission meeting, TEAM Productions’ Bob Rothermel outlined plans for a series of summer fireworks shows and free concerts from one end of the town to the other. TEAM Productions is awarded funding through the Tourism Advisory Board each year to produce the various fireworks shows and free concerts.
On Monday, Rothermel presented a tentative plan for 12 fireworks shows at Northside Park, many of which are coordinated with the popular Sundaes in the Park event. The plan also includes eight fireworks shows at the Boardwalk on Mondays starting July 8 and continuing through Aug. 26.
In addition, the TEAM Productions’ plan includes three free summer concerts with two at Northside Park and another on the beach at North Division Street on July 3. The $269,000 total package also includes the popular OCtoberfrest events coordinated with two weekends around Halloween with the beach maze, pet parade and Great Pumpkin Race.
Rothermel told commission members many of the dates are locked in, but there is some flexibility within the budget to add more events if desired. He also said for a nominal increase in the town’s contribution, he could possibly add more fireworks shows and concerts if desired.
“I’m looking to add another free concert in June,” he said. “That would be in this fiscal year, so I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. I’m also looking to add more fireworks shows.”
The free concerts at Northside Park and on the beach downtown are increasingly popular with visitors and that segment of the special events slate could be enhanced. Last year in August, the Wailers concert at Northside Park drew exceptionally well, but now is the time to start booking talent, according to Rothermel.
“The Wailers concert last year drew 2,000 people with very little marketing,” he said. “Booking talent is like a snap shot. They’re going to take the highest and best offer. I wouldn’t necessarily reprise the Wailers at Northside Park, but maybe downtown on the beach.”
Some on the commission asked if Rothermel was exploring tribute bands that have become more and more popular for nostalgic music fans. Rothermel said that is a possibility, but he would rather direct his efforts at original entertainers.
“I really don’t get tribute bands,” he said. “Why not just go see the actual band? They do draw well, I’ll give you that. They do well at outdoor festival venues, but I wouldn’t put them in the performing arts center.”
Naturally, some acts are more expensive than others and Rothermel said he can move money around within the existing contract if a great concert act became available.
“I’m coming in with flexibility in the budget,” he said. “If some concert needs more, I can move money around internally to make that work.”
He also said the town can get more bang for its buck by scheduling free concerts from Monday to Thursday.
“Entertainers are looking for mid-week dates,” he said. “Friday and Saturday are the big money nights. They want to fill in some of those mid-week dates.”
Commission member Stephanie Meehan said she likes the concept of a July 3 concert to jumpstart the holiday weekend with the Fourth of July falling on a Thursday this year.
“I like the July 3 concert idea,” she said. “A mid-week Fourth is challenging. If we can get them to come on July 3 for a great concert, maybe they stay for the fireworks on the Fourth on a Thursday and stay right through the weekend.”
Commission member Michael James agreed the Fourth falling on a Thursday presented some challenges.
“What we’ve seen is people come on Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. “They might have to work on Friday, so they go home to their neighborhood festivities on the weekend.”
The old start time argument for the Boardwalk fireworks shows also came up again on Monday. For years, the fireworks started at dusk, but some Boardwalk merchants complained they were too early and drove business out of their shops. Some suggested a 11 p.m. start time to keep people on the Boardwalk later, but others said that was too late for families with small children. Finally, a compromise was reached with a 10:30 p.m. start time, which appears to have worked, according to Rothermel.
“Everyone goes after the fireworks are over,” he said. “You see that on the Fourth and you see it on the other fireworks nights. After the fireworks are over, people start heading out, so maybe 10:30 p.m. is the right time.”
Rothermel dismissed the idea 10:30 p.m. was too late in the summer for families with small children.
“I hear that all the time and it’s simply not true,” he said. “We see plenty of families with young kids walking down the Boardwalk at 10:30 p.m. The rules are changed when you’re at the beach and on vacation.”
Meehan, who owns an arcade on the Boardwalk, agreed with the 10:30 p.m. start time, pointing out the volume of kids in her business at different times of the night.
“There are just as many at 10:30 as there are at 8:30,” she said. “And I’m talking about from teens to the little ones. It really doesn’t have an impact.”