It was not so much the actual decision to cancel Berlin’s Christmas Parade and New Year’s Eve as much as the timing and communication.
Last Friday the Town of Berlin issued a press release announcing the official cancelation of the Christmas Parade and New Year’s Eve ball drop. In the same press release, there were some details about next month’s Oktoberfest event, featuring outdoor tents with beer, fare and a sidewalk sale. When the press release was shared on our Facebook page, the inevitable criticism followed. Ninety percent of the nearly 400 comments were dramatically against the town’s decision. For example, one commenter wrote, “I’m trying to comprehend this and make sense out of this decision. Events in October, one month away, are still on but you have canceled the 2 events the end of December, 3 months from now.” Another commenter wrote, “Who announces this (expletive deleted) on 9/11 after the first week of virtual school?! Seriously wtf is wrong with the people making these ridiculous decisions! Our poor babies have lost enough this year!”
These concerns are understandable. Whether the decision to cancel the parade and New Year’s festivities now is the right call is not my beef. My guess is the events would not be able to be held ultimately, but announcing it so early was unnecessary and certainly poor judgment to lump in with the revised plans for Oktoberfest, which right or wrong most people consider a drinking event.
It’s also worth pointing out this decision could well be reversed if Berlin Mayor Gee Williams loses his seat Oct. 6. There were indications among challengers the move would be re-evaluated immediately after the election.
Ocean City is preparing for the worst with next weekend’s pop-up vehicle rally. In fact, the hospitality industry is even warning guests of the inconveniences that will be coming in the form of traffic backups, speed bumps, new traffic patterns and a heavy police presence.
In an email yesterday to membership, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones shared some communication tools and guidance for the weekend, including some verbiage hotels should consider sending guests ahead of their stay in Ocean City.
The letter read, “Thank you for choosing to stay with us! We can’t wait to welcome you to Ocean City and look forward to your upcoming visit.
“As you prepare for your stay, we want to make you aware of a large motor event coming to town this weekend, September 25-28. The event is expected to bring excessive noise and increased traffic which may impact your Ocean City experience.
“Please understand that this is not a Town-sanctioned event and Ocean City does not authorize the actions planned by the social media organizers. Our number one priority is the safety of our visitors and the Town will be implementing several measures in order to keep you and our community safe.
“As always, we want our visitors to have the best experience possible in OCMD and enjoy everything our beloved beach town has to offer. We pride ourselves on being a coastal community that families of all ages can enjoy year-round but we ask you to exercise caution when visiting the weekend of September 25-28.”
While this may seem unconventional, I think it’s a wise approach to inform guests next weekend will be unusual. It’s these sorts of practices that underscores the fact Ocean City may have to take a business bruising in the near term in exchange for longer term success if the weekend is so miserable for the participants. The intent to make it uncomfortable and miserable for people in town. It’s best to warn people with the proper messaging.
The Worcester County Commissioners were right to slow the process for a potential overlay zone for the Ocean Downs Casino. It may ultimately still be approved, but the request was clearly on the fast track before the commissioners decided last month to set aside a work session to discuss the issue before having a public hearing on the matter next month.
The motivation behind the casino’s request is a desire to offer more events and functions on the casino property. All these gatherings, such as a concert, for example, would have one goal in mind – to get more bodies into the casino. Diversifying offerings to bring in new people to the property is certainly a logical business proposition for the casino, but the commissioners have a lot to weigh here, including the original intent 12 years ago behind the approvals for expanded gambling at the casino. The commissioners should also consider whether any sort of approval of the overlay district needs to be tied to continuing live racing at the track. The public hearing on the matter will be interesting.
For now, the commissioners’ top concern is the impact of additional uses on the property would have on Route 589. “I’ll just leave this scenario in everybody’s head. They have a concert out there and you have 2,500, 3,000 people leaving that casino area at the same time pouring out onto 589,” Commission President Joe Mitrecic said. “That’s a possibility.”
Casino General Manager Bobbi Sample indicated officials understand the issues, but she said, “We feel very positive we can address all the concerns and move forward with the responsible expansion of our property.”