Though it’s a controversial move, the Town of Ocean City’s decision to delay Sunfest by one weekend to avoid a conflict with a troublesome lot of visitors is the right call.
Sunfest is traditionally held in either the last or second to last weekend in September. The long weekend has become a major event for Ocean City and it’s growing, as attendance records have been set in recent years.
The looming prospect of Sunfest coinciding with the unofficial and troubling H2Oi crowd was the main reason the town pushed the event back. We understand the reasoning and the public and business owners should as well.
When the announcement was made this week, many in the tourism circuit were shocked. It was clear town officials worked privately, as the majority of business owners were unaware of the planned change. As soon as word spread about the planned change, many reported hearing from upset vacationers who had to cancel their plans outright or, in greater numbers, expressed dismay about the inconvenience.
Though those concerns are understandable, Sunfest could not be held the same weekend as this unsanctioned gathering. The event would suffer. During the H2Oi event last year, there was gridlock on Coastal Highway and mass transit was hampered by the volume of traffic. Thousands of people use the city’s bus system to get to Sunfest each year. Conflicting with the H2Oi event will seriously jeopardize the city’s ability to move these visitors.
While there are some short-term issues hotels and rental companies will now be dealing with, the town was right to protect a signature fall event. Over the long term, it will play out as the appropriate decision.