OC’s Winterfest Sees Attendance Jump, New Records In Product Sales

OC’s Winterfest Sees Attendance Jump, New Records In Product Sales
File photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — The modified walk-through Winterfest of Lights was once again a clear success with high attendance and gross sales exceeding budget expectations.

Winterfest of Lights opened the Thursday before Thanksgiving and ran through New Year’s Day last weekend, just as it has done for nearly the last three decades. However, because of ongoing COVID concerns, the event last year was modified to a walk-through event and was a critical and financial success.

For decades, Winterfest of Lights attracted thousands of visitors who rode the Boardwalk tram through the massive light displays arrayed throughout the Northside Park complex. Last year, however, visitors enjoyed Winterfest of Lights as a walk-through experience that proved to be equally rewarding.

Visitors and residents last year mostly raved about the modified event with its light displays arranged around the roughly half-mile walking path around the lagoon. This year, with the critical acclaim in 2020, the Town of Ocean City returned to the modified walk-through event, which set new benchmarks for Winterfest.

Anecdotally, many visitors said they preferred the leisurely pace of walking through Winterfest and enjoying each of the light displays and lingering around their favorites for a while, compared to waiting in line for the tram and getting whisked quickly through the park.

There was still the massive Christmas tree with its synchronized lights and music. There were still opportunities to visit with Santa and enjoy a hot chocolate and the gift shop. However, the big change was the pedestrian aspect.

The proof was in the pudding, as over 100,000 entrance tickets were purchased this year during Winterfest of Lights including robust online sales. Last year, the first-ever modified walk-through Winterfest drew around 74,000 visitors.

Last year, the gross sales were just over $434,000, while this year, that figure rose to nearly $615,000. About $560,000 was budgeted for Winterfest this year, according to statistics provided by the town, meaning the event well exceeded financial expectations.

This year’s Winterfest of Lights also set new records in several key financial categories compared to previous record year. Gift shop sales were up 34% from the previous record year in 2018. Glow product sales were up 16% from the previous record year in 2019, while Santa photo sales were up a whopping 86% from the record year in 2017.

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.