Adventure Fest Concept Pitched For Traditional Pop-Up Event Weekend

OCEAN CITY — A series of special events to potentially help offset the unsanctioned pop-up event next September while raising funds for local law enforcement and emergency services agencies were presented this week.

The Mayor and Council had before them on Tuesday a presentation for a series of special events proposed for the week of Sept. 19-25 next fall, overlapping with the often-troublesome unsanctioned pop-up event. Cliff Southerland, who has produced motorcycle events in Ocean City and in his native West Virginia, pitched the concept to the Mayor and Council for a series of special events in conjunction with the Hogs and Heroes Foundation, which supports public safety and U.S. military organizations.

Southerland, who owns a Harley Davidson dealership and a Greene Turtle restaurant in in Morgantown, W.Va., has produced successful motorcycle rallies in Ocean City in the past and is hoping to build on that past success with his proposed series of events.

“We approached the city about managing an event,” he said. “It was very successful. Hogs and Heroes run our security. The beauty of them doing that is they are military and police. We had a great relationship when we had an event here.”

Southerland said the concept came to him when he received notice from the town to avoid coming to Ocean City during the unsanctioned pop-up event in late September.

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“I, like many others, received a notice not to come to Ocean City during a recent unsanctioned event,” he said. “What can we do to create a mature, older demographic event that may help during that unsanctioned event? We came up with an event that’s really a series of different events throughout that entire week.”

Southerland said the series of events called the Ocean City Adventure Fest, would largely take place in and around the convention center. It would include police K-9 competition along with training, a police motorcycle rodeo in the parking lot, concerts at the Performing Arts Center and an autumn hunting and fishing expo including a gun show.

“This would be a regional event that would bring in a lot of police and military personnel during that week,” he said. “The police tend to wear uniforms when they’re on their bikes. We expect maybe a 1,000 in year one, all riding through town in uniform.”

Southerland said through Hogs and Heroes, the hope was to create a foundation to provide proceeds from the event to local law enforcement agencies.

“We’re looking to create a lot of revenue for the non-profits,” he said. “We know for a fact there will be 3,000 room nights in the first year, and maybe as many as 5,000.”

The hunting and fishing expo would include a gun show element, although strict rules would be in place and enforced and no one would walk and be able to immediately purchase a gun.

“We’re looking to create a hunting and fishing expo with a gun show,” he said. “Although we wouldn’t call it a gun show necessarily. Nobody would walk into the event and walk out with a gun. There are strict rules in place for that.”

Hogs and Heroes President Andrew Mutchler said the intent is to offset some of the challenges created by the pop-up event while raising funds for the organization’s charities, including law enforcement and the military.

“What we want to do is reserve that block of time and preserve it for the residents and law-abiding visitors,” he said. “It’s estimated Ocean City loses $5 million to $8 million in revenue during that unsanctioned event. This year you get a little respite, but it’s uncertain what will happen in the out years.”

Mutchler said the added benefit of hosting the event for law enforcement officers and military during the last week of September would hundreds of uniformed officers on the streets in marked vehicles.

“You could have 300 minimum uniformed police officers in marked vehicles here at no charge,” he said. “This is a sustainable, yearly event and it could offset some of the antics during that weekend. One of the best deterrents of street crime is high visibility. It would be helpful for the city, and turn a negative revenue situation into a positive revenue situation.”

Mutchler said the emphasis, however, would be on the Hogs and Heroes’ charitable endeavors, including portions of the proceeds donated to law emergency services organizations. He said Hogs and Heroes cannot donate money directly to governmental entities without passing it through a foundation.

“We want to create a foundation for police in Ocean City, Worcester County, Wicomico, Ocean Pines, the Ocean City Fire Department and EMS and the beach patrol,” he said. “We raise money to give it away. Our two-prong approach is for military and public safety.”

Councilman John Gehrig said bringing in offseason special events to help offset the unsanctioned pop-up event has been a stated goal for the resort.

“We’re talking about ways to bring in other events,” he said. “There are a lot of details to work out. We don’t have enough information yet, but we can certainly give you some direction.”

Gehrig said he liked the hunting and fishing expo concept, but wanted more information on the gun show concept. Allowing a gun show at the convention center during the larger event would require a conditional use approved by the council, and at this point, there are more questions than answers.

“I think it should be called a hunting and fishing expo and not calling it a gun show,” he said. “I would prefer we get some more details, but I don’t want to exclude anything on its face.”

Mayor Rick Meehan agreed.

“You’ve said we were going to do a hunting and fishing expo with a gun show attached,” he said. “Everything else associated with this is beneficial. We’re trying to take control of our own destiny. That is our goal. There’s a lot of good surrounding this, but I have some reservations about the gun show element.”

Mutchler explained no guns would change hands at the expo and gun show. Buyers could make purchases with the appropriate waiting times applied and would later complete the purchase at an authorized dealer after considerable vetting.

Councilman Mark Paddack made a motion to remand the special event presentation to staff and legal counsel for further review. That motion passed unanimously.

The concept now joins another proposed event – a three-day musical festival from promoters C3 Presents – as possible events to coincide with the pop-up weekend.

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.