Back in March, an editorial in this paper on possible drone shows in Ocean City instead of fireworks read, “Measuring the return on investment on value-added events is impossible, but the fact there is something new and exciting in Ocean City should create an early-season buzz and give tourism folks something new to talk about during media tours. It’s a heavy price tag that comes with some risk. We think the timing was wrong for this bold play, but we admire the thought process behind it.” Though I stand behind the position, I now think Ocean City was right to opt for drone shows this summer over fireworks.
My concern back in the winter was investing $269,000 (70%) of the town’s $382,000 special events budget on 20 drone shows was an unnecessary risk in the summer following a pandemic. While I stand behind the stance today given the nature of things five months ago, I am glad Ocean City made the change. I watched the show last Sunday at Northside Park and it was well received by the crowds. There were many positive reactions overheard and I found it entertaining. Special Event Productions, Inc.’s Bob Rothermel said there are 200 drones at every show with 180 in the air at any time. He said he has received positive feedback from attendees at each show. Some constructive criticism he has fielded from repeat attendees involved questions as to whether the shows can be altered each week. Some questioned whether different images and designs can be featured to keep the shows fresh. He said a tremendous amount of orchestration and tech planning goes into each show. He said the 12-minute show’s timing and displays have been tweaked along the way, but the images are largely sequenced as best as possible at this time. Rothermel pointed out the fireworks shows during previous summers – excluding the 4th of July – were also simulated and fired off in the same order with the same number of shells. The repetition was just as noticeable because the drones are creating crabs and ice cream cones, for example.
“It’s been really strong. We are hearing positive things from people walking by and sharing their thoughts,” Rothermel said. “It’s everything you would want in an event. People like the new, fresh things. We are excited about the reception we have been hearing at Northside Park and on the Boardwalk … We worked really hard to try and convince the city to try drones. It took three months, and we think it’s been really strong overall.”
In other entertainment news, for the first time in many years, Ocean City will host a major music act on the beach. There have been numerous concerts on the beach, including the 2019 Jellyfish Festival when mid-level bands performed on a beach stage, but country music’s Brad Paisley is on another level. It’s a major score for Ocean City and Rothermel’s company. There will be approximately 7,000 tickets sold, according to Rothermel. In comparison, Rothermel, who was working for the city at the time, said there were 10,000 tickets sold for the first Beach Boys concert on the beach back in 1993. Tickets went on sale for Paisley last Friday. Rothermel described the early ticket sales as “strong.”
In recent weeks, there has been some confusion over whether the Paisley concert is associated with the Jellyfish Festival on Labor Day weekend. Rothermel clarified his team is working together with Jellyfish promoter Brad Hoffman, but they are separate events. An example of the collaboration is during the Saturday of Jellyfish Festival bands will be featured on the big stage where Paisley will perform. On Sunday, when Paisley will take the stage at 5 p.m., a secondary stage will be set up on the beach for the Jellyfish performers earlier in the day.
On a recent walk in Berlin, I noticed kindness was posted in two different places – one on a telephone pole in front of the Inn Berlin and another on the marquee at Buckingham Elementary School. Though the messages have been around most of the summer, it was interesting this week to reflect on the intentions when digesting the sudden death of Eric Cropper. Every single person I have spoken to this week about Cropper said the same thing – he was as kind as they come.
My personal interactions with him were limited. I recall walking with him a few times into Ocean City Elementary School for afternoon pickup. One encounter was memorable because it was a month or so before the 2014 election. He said he wanted to run because the school system was so great to him as a student and he wanted to help kids. I recalled the conversation in June when he was able to give his oldest child, son Eric Jr., a hug as he received his diploma on stage at Stephen Decatur High School. What a wonderful experience it must have been for him and his family. It’s heartbreaking to reflect back now on that moment, as he will not be able to share that with his daughters.
Since he passed last Friday, residents and businesses have stepped up to support the family with kind words of support on social media as well as pitching in nearly $27,000 through a gofundme effort. School board colleague Todd Ferrante put it well this week when he said, “If there were more people like Eric Cropper in this world, the world would be a better place.”