It’s will require a big play to gain serious traction against the pop-up rally held every September in Ocean City, but potential solutions should not come at the expense of heightened public safety concerns.
The dilemma facing city officials now is whether the risk of having bikers mix with the rowdy and rude pop-up rally crowd is too much for public safety agencies to handle.
It’s understandable the prospect of a potential second OC BikeFest week coinciding with the pop-up rally concerns public safety officials. Ocean City Fire Chief Richie Bowers, Police Chief Ross Buzzuro and State’s Attorney Kris Heiser each expressed serious reservations over the possibility of growing the OC BikeFest into a weekend typically marred by the pop-up rally.
“The last pop-up event, we had the most law enforcement we have ever had in this town in its history,” Buzzuro said. “Layering this event on top of that unsanctioned event would take a lot of resources and preparation. We can’t assume one event will wash out the other.”
It’s this assumption that carries the most risk. At this point in time, we think public safety concerns should trump any other potential gains. It’s a major risk to have bikers and the pop-up rally folks here on the same weekend. It could be disastrous.
Though an argument could be made the bikers will book all the lodging in town before the troublemakers, there’s no guarantee it will happen. We believe the pop-up rally attractants are savvy enough to find their own accommodations even if most of the traditional hotel rooms or rentals are reserved by the bikers. There’s a high chance once the city decides to expand the event further into September the pop-up rally folks will rush to immediately secure their lodging, leaving the bikers as the ones having trouble booking rooms.
Adding a second week to BikeFest earlier in September also came with concerns. Mayor Rick Meehan said too many motorized events throughout the month could actually hurt the resort as September features warm weather and draws families with young kids to the town.
Rather than agreeing to invest $1 million over four years to help the BikeFest event grow to two weeks, we prefer Ocean City stick a pin in the concept for now. It would be appropriate for town officials to gauge the impact of a second year of a major police presence armed with the new restrictive, zero-tolerance towing policy and other measures before making this decision. We think the concept of growing the bike event has promise, but we don’t think the time is right for next year.