Ocean City Pulls Plug On New Year’s Eve Fireworks Plans

OCEAN CITY — There will be no fireworks show on New Year’s Eve after all after resort officials last week announced they were postponing the event based on guidance from the county health department.

The fireworks show planned for Northside Park on New Year’s Eve had been moved from the Fourth of July after the Mayor and Council postponed the traditional mid-summer fireworks shows downtown at the Boardwalk and uptown at Northside Park. Those shows were cancelled over concerns of thousands of spectators cramming in and around both venues.

Instead, the town continued to work with the vendor, Celebration Fireworks, on alternative dates, including possibly in conjunction with the OC Air Show, which had been moved from the traditional mid-June dates to August. Another alternative was moving the Fourth of July fireworks to Labor Day weekend as a send-off for what was decidedly an unforgettable summer.

After considerable debate, the Mayor and Council decided to move the original Fourth of July fireworks to New Year’s Eve as a crescendo of sorts for the modified Winterfest of Lights and the culmination of the troublesome 2020. Last week, however, with the recent COVID spike continuing, town officials announced they were cancelling the oft-moved NYE fireworks show at Northside Park. The decision was made after consulting with the Worcester County Health Department, according to a statement from the town.

“The town of Ocean City continues to work with the Worcester County Health Department while planning events,” the statement reads. “Out of an abundance of caution, the town of Ocean City has decided to cancel the NYE fireworks display at Northside Park.”

Instead, the modified walk-through Winterfest of Lights will go on through its completion without the typical fireworks sendoff, although town officials promise some extra amenities related to New Year’s Eve.

“Winterfest will be open for regular hours on Dec. 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.,” the statement reads. “Winterfest will still offer some photo ops and activities unique to the year end. These will be available Dec. 30 through Jan. 2, the final day of Winterfest.”

Earlier in the spring at the height of the COVID pandemic, the Mayor and Council agreed to the $55,000 contract with Celebration Fireworks, including a $13,750 non-refundable deposit. As the pandemic wore on and it became evident the Fourth of July fireworks would not likely happen, the vendor agreed to roll the $13,750 deposit over for alternative dates, including first the air show and later Labor Day before ultimately deciding to move the modified New Year’s Eve show.

The vendor agreed to supply the New Year’s Eve show for the $13,750 deposit in exchange for a request for proposal (RFP) for a three-year contract going forward in out years for the Fourth of July shows. With the New Year’s Eve modified show now cancelled, it remains uncertain if the $13,750 deposit for that show will be rolled over into next year or if a new contract will be agreed upon. Special Events Director Frank Miller said this week there were internal discussions going on among city officials to decide how best to proceed going forward, the results of which were not known as of midweek.

The original agreement was essentially a win-win for both parties. The town was getting a New Year’s Eve fireworks show for its original $13,750 deposit, while the vendor was getting a guaranteed three-year contract extension to produce the Fourth of July fireworks shows in out year.

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.