Final Marlin Fest MOU Approved

OCEAN CITY — After some final tweaks regarding vendor fees and the town’s in-kind contribution, the council this week approved the final memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the White Marlin Open to host a Marlin Fest event at the 3rd Street park in conjunction with the tournament.

Marlin Fest is proposed to complement tournament headquarters at Harbour Island. The event will offer an alternative to spread out and enjoy the tournament in a wide open, safe, family friendly atmosphere with the weigh-ins streamed on a big screen. The bayfront site will allow for a nice vantage point to watch the boats come in with their catch flags flying.

In April, the MOU between the WMO and the town was first presented, spelling out each parties’ responsibilities for Marlin Fest, and while all agreed the concept was a good one, there were a few details to clear up in terms of vendor fees and the town’s in-kind contributions to the event. It was determined because Marlin Fest was being held on recreation and parks department property, the event was somewhat of a hybrid in terms of vendor fees.

For example, special events held on other city property, such as the Inlet lot for example, have a certain fee schedule for vendors, while events on parks property, such as the downtown recreation complex in this case have a different fee schedule for vendors. Because Marlin Fest is being held on recreation and parks property, the initial MOU included a $650 fee for each individual vendor for the entire week-long event.

The vendor fee for a special event on other town property is a flat $75 for the entire event. When the MOU for Marlin Fest was presented in April, WMO producers questioned the great disparity in the vendor fees between parks property events and other city-owned venues in town. As a result, WMO officials went back the drawing board with the city manager, city solicitor and special events staff to work out a solution.

On Monday, the final MOU presented for the event, and ultimately approved by the council, sets the vendor fee at a flat $75 for the week-long event. Another issue to resolve was the level of in-kind services the town provides to the White Marlin Open each year.

For decades, the town has provided in-kind assistance for the White Marlin Open in and around Harbour Island such as trash cans, road barriers, extra police for traffic and pedestrian control and the like. When the MOU was first presented in April, the town’s special events department considered the level of in-kind services needed to support the WMO at both Harbour Island and the Marlin Fest at the downtown recreation complex would increase significantly.

It was decided at the time that the town’s in-kind financial contribution should roughly match what was contributed in 2019. Last year was essentially thrown out because of the COVID-19 restrictions and limitations on the event curtailed what the town had to provide to support the event.

Staff was directed to review what was provided in 2019 and come up with an estimate for 2021 to provide services to both Harbour Island and Marlin Fest. It was determined the total contribution in 2019 came in at nearly $15,000. The breakdown included over $10,000 from the public works maintenance division, roughly $3,000 from the police department and another $1,500 from the transportation department.

The final MOU approved on Monday includes a facility fee for the use of the downtown recreation complex of $2,816 to be paid by the WMO, along with a one-time flat $75 vendor fee. The town’s overall contribution in in-kind services continues to be just under $15,000.

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.