OCEAN CITY — A scaled-back second annual Jellyfish Festival, a weekend special event featuring live music, interactive sports and other family-friendly components, was approved this week.
Last year, Jellyfish Festival featured national, regional and local acts with themed-based entertainment over the weekend along with action sports including surfing competitions, skateboarding, motocross, ultimate frisbee and other interactive, family-friendly amenities all surrounding the Jellyfish Tentacle Village on the beach in the downtown area.
On Tuesday, local event promoter Brad Hoffman and his private-sector company Live Wire Media came before the Mayor and Council seeking approval for a reduced version of last year’s Jellyfish Festival on the beach downtown scheduled for June 27-28. Hoffman said he was been working with the town’s special events staff on a scaled-back version of the Jellyfish Festival for the last weekend in June.
“We learned a lot from last year,” he said. “We’ve been working with town staff on some changes we believe will make the event just as good or better than last year.”
For one thing, Hoffman was seeking no major financial contribution from the town for the 2020 Jellyfish Festival other than in-kind services such as public works and public safety assistance, for example. Last year, the town dedicated nearly $200,000 to the inaugural event.
In addition, the 2020 Jellyfish Festival will not be held on the same weekend as the popular Firefly Music Festival in Delaware this year. Last year, the Jellyfish Festival competed somewhat with the well-established Firefly Music Festival for largely the same demographic.
In addition, the 2020 event will focus less on attracting major nationally-known bands and music groups and more on the interactive sports such as surfing, motocross, frisbee competitions, fat-tire beach bicycle areas and other family-friendly amenities such as a fitness zone obstacle course. Hoffman did say he was working to secure significant regional and local live entertainment for the 2020 festival, but was decidedly mum on the details at this point.
“Last year was fairly ambitious with three stages,” he said. “This year, we will tone it down a little with two stages to make it more manageable. We are also going from three days last year to two this year. We’re also going to shrink the event’s entire footprint by about one third.”
Hoffman said email addresses and other information were collected from attendees at last year’s inaugural event, painting an accurate picture of the reach of the 2019 Jellyfish Festival. For example, while a large number of attendees came from in and around the mid-Atlantic region, there were also visitors from as far away as Kansas, California and even Canada.
“People came from all over the country,” he said. “There were a lot of regional visitors, but we had a lot of people come to the event from all over the country.”
Last year, Jellyfish Festival promoters promised a “wow factor” in terms of entertainment and featured several nationally-known acts such as Ballyhoo and Badfish on Friday; Styx, Crack the Sky and the Rayvns on classic rock Saturday and family-friendly music with a message acts such as the Newsboys and Crowder on Sunday. Hoffman said while he was not privy to speak yet about potential acts for the 2020 event, it would target an audience more in keeping with the demographic at last year’s event.
“The demographic was a little younger than what I expected last year,” he said. “It was kind of in the 25-35 range. We’re skewing the music for a younger audience this year. Those classic rock groups were awesome, but we learned they didn’t quite fit our demographic. The town already does a great job with special events such as Springfest and Sunfest that target that older demographic.”
After hearing the detailed presentation, the council voted unanimously to support the 2020 Jellyfish Festival as presented. Mayor Rick Meehan praised Hoffman for making the adjustments to improve the event this year.
“I know your passion for this,” he said. “I think that some of the changes you’ve presented here will really make the event better.”
Hoffman said with the council’s blessing he was ready to move forward with event planning.
“I am thrilled to be moving forward with the Jellyfish Festival in 2020,” he said. “My 25-year history of event production in this town speaks for itself. I can see a clear path to success with the support of the Mayor and Council, the larger tourism community and visitors and tourists alike. I takes a community to make the Jellyfish swim and I look forward to your help and support.”
Last year Hoffman partnered with Endless Summer Surf Shop owner Joe “Salty” Selthoffer and Illusion Sound and Lighting owner Brian Gilpin on the event. Hoffman is now on his own with this event.
“Brian and I have parted ways with the Jellyfish Festival and are pursuing other projects,” said Selthoffer. “We wish the festival well.”