OC’s Jellyfish Festival Latest Event Scrapped

OCEAN CITY — About one month away from the 2020 Jellyfish Festival on the beach downtown, organizers this week pulled the plug on the planned scaled-down event.

Last year, the inaugural Jellyfish Festival was held on the beach in June including national, regional and local acts with theme-based entertainment on three state-of-the-art stages. The inaugural event also offered family-friendly interactive events including surfing and skateboarding competitions, ultimate frisbee, a fat-tire bike zone and other amenities along with vendors in the Jellyfish Tentacle Village.

In February, local event promoter Brad Hoffman and his private-sector company Live Wire Media requested and gained support from the town for a second Jellyfish Festival in June on the beach in the downtown area. The event, which would have included a scaled-down and less ambitious live entertainment featuring local bands, craft beers on the beach hosted by Shore Craft Brews, a cornhole tournament, an ultimate frisbee tournament, surf contests and other family-friendly events, was originally set for June 27-28.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and many of the town’s private and public special events steadily fell like dominoes throughout the summer. As a result, Jellyfish Festival organizers moved the event to Sept. 12-13 in the hopes the state’s recovery plan would be far enough along to allow for special events and large gatherings of people. However, the Jellyfish Festival team announced in a statement this week the challenges remain too daunting.

“More than a year ago, when we began planning for an exciting follow-up to the 2019 Jellyfish Festival, nobody could have seen coming how the world would change so drastically in a short amount of time,” the statement reads. “As the COVID-19 pandemic led to more stringent guidelines on social gatherings, the team at the Jellyfish Festival took great strides to create an event that would be safe and enjoyable, while still staying compliant with the public health policies and procedures put in place by our city and state leadership.”

According to the statement, canceling the Jellyfish Festival in September was a difficult but sensible decision in the current phase of the state’s recovery plan despite a recent decline in some of the key COVID-19 metrics in Maryland.

“Now, with the current state of the recovery plan in Ocean City and Worcester County, it constricts our event to the point of not being viable,” the statement reads. “We feel the safe and responsible thing to do then is to cancel the Jellyfish Festival. This is a difficult decision to make, but it’s the right one because we take the health of everyone involved- participants, staff, music performers, vendors and more- as out top concern.”

Hoffman and the Jellyfish Festival team said in the statement they were disheartened somewhat with the decision to cancel the event for this year, but promised to bring it back next year.

“We’re grateful for the support the Ocean City community has offered, and we feel we’re doing the right thing at the right time to keep everyone safe and healthy,” the statement reads. “In the meantime, Jellyfish plans to return to Ocean City next summer with a great event for all.”

The Jellyfish Festival team this year received no major financial contribution from the town of Ocean City other than in-kind services such as public works and public safety assistance. For last year’s much larger and far more ambitious Jellyfish Festival, the town dedicated nearly $200,000 to the inaugural event.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.