Ocean City Aims For Modified Springfest In May; No Major Music Acts Planned, Scaled Back Food, Alcohol Offerings

Ocean City Aims For Modified Springfest In May; No Major Music Acts Planned, Scaled Back Food, Alcohol Offerings
Springfest grounds in the Inlet parking lot are pictured in a file photo.

OCEAN CITY — There will likely be a 30th Annual Springfest in Ocean City this year, but the event will be considerably modified because of ongoing state COVID directives.

Throughout much of the last year, most special events were either postponed or greatly modified because of ongoing COVID restrictions. Already this spring, the annual St. Patrick’s Parade has been scrubbed and other significant events have fallen victim to the ongoing pandemic.

The next major event on the calendar is Springfest and it will go off for the 30th year, but it will be significantly modified to meet the existing state COVID-19 directives still in place. Special Events Director Frank Miller presented the modified Springfest plans to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday.

The event will still take place on the Inlet lot as usual, but the food and craft tents will be spread out and open-sided with strict adherence to social distancing, crowd size limitations and the wearing of masks in the event footprint for example. Throughout the pandemic, Miller has been charged with coming up with modified plans for many of the town’s special events, including the walk-through Winterfest of Lights, and his plans for a modified Springfest were well received on Tuesday.

“We have a unique opportunity to create a great event and still end up in the black,” he said. “There is no easy answer. Of course, we can always eliminate it again altogether, but we think we can work with these parameters.”

In terms of food service, there will be a food tent, but the tent will be open on all sides to create an outdoor feel. There will likely be less vendors and they will be further spread apart. There will be tables in the food tent, along with an adjacent beer garden with tables, but visitors will be encouraged to purchase food and beverages, find a seat and consume it before moving on. Socializing around the tables will not be allowed and there will be a controlled entrance and exit point to limit crowd sizes within the food tent.

“We know we’re going to be affected by ongoing directives,” he said. “The key is how adjust to those directives. We can do food service, but it will be modified. There will be less vendors and the food tent will be open on the sides. People will have to sit down and eat where they purchase.”

In terms of the traditional arts and crafts, there will be craft tents, but they will have wide, open airy walkways. Miller said he expects less vendors, but interest in the spring event has been solid. The vendors will be properly distanced with plenty of open space. The vendors will strictly adhere to the state sanitation guidelines and there will be sanitizer and wipes throughout the venue.

Perhaps the most noticeable change will be the entertainment. Current state directives do not allow for large gatherings for indoor concerts, so there will be no entertainment tent and no ticketed national act shows. Instead, there will be a single outdoor stage on the beach facing the ocean for smaller free concerts.

“We can do some live entertainment outside,” he said. “Spectators will have to adhere to spacing and guidelines and it will be limited to around 250 people. We can work around that.”

In terms of the cost of producing the event, Miller said he was confident Springfest would end up in the black. Estimated decreases in expenses include lower tent rental costs, the removal of the custom inside stage with lighting and sound systems and, of course, the lack of national acts for ticketed concerts. The net decrease in expenses is estimated at $173,000.

However, losses are expected om the revenue side because of fewer vendors, decreases in beer, wine and merchandise sales and the loss of three days of ticketed concerts. Miller estimated the net gain on the revenue side at around $30,000 to $40,000.

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.