Logistics Issues With Other Big Events Could Push Sunfest Into October Again

Logistics Issues With Other Big Events Could Push Sunfest Into October Again
Sunfest grounds are pictured last year. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — With a series of special events stacked up on back-to-back weekends next fall, the annual Sunfest event could be moved back later into October.

During a Tourism Commission meeting this week, members discussed the fall special events calendar. OC BikeFest is scheduled for its usual slot in mid-September. New this year is major three-day music festival Sept. 23-25 produced by internationally-known promoter C3 Presents. Wedged in is the annual wine festival event and the often-troublesome unsanctioned pop-up motorized event.

Then, there’s Sunfest, which has been held at the Inlet parking lot for 46 years. During Monday’s commission meeting, Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo explained calendar changes may be necessary to accommodate all events.

“The music festival would be competing with that H2Oi week,” he said. “Logistically, for the town, it’s sandwiched between Bike Week and Sunfest. We had a meeting to see what opportunities there might be.”

Special Events Director Frank Miller explained moving Sunfest later into October could be the most efficient way of stretching the fall special events calendar. He explained Bike Week and the proposed C3 Presents event could likely share the same basic footprint and much of the same infrastructure needed for live music. However, the set-up for Sunfest is different and would require more time.

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“We’re trying to see how the C3 event can fit into our events calendar,” he said. “Unfortunately, it came to our realization that Sunfest couldn’t fit well with it. A couple of years ago we talked about moving Sunfest back. There are essentially two options for Sunfest. We can push it earlier in September, which is not desirable because of the Inlet lot parking revenue, or we can move it back later in October.”

Miller said that proposed event calendar made more sense from the logistical standpoint.

“It allows Wine Fest to move back into September where it has traditionally been,” he said. “It frees up Sept. 9-10 only for BikeFest, and it allows BikeFest to work together with C3 Presents. They share some of the same infrastructure and they have the same type of footprint and the set-ups are similar.”

Councilman and commission member Tony DeLuca questioned whether the cart was being put before the horse.

“Are you telling us the set-up and tear-down for these events are driving the schedule?” he said. “It seems to me we can lock down the schedule and look at solutions for some of these logistics issues.”

Miller explained the magnitude of coordinating the events was causing a shift in the schedule.

“What we want for tourism is driving this,” he said. “It takes a higher priority. That causes Sunfest to be moved according to the proposed scenario. The logistics don’t work. We have to look at some type of modification.”

Miller said he has been in touch with some of the demographics that typically support Sunfest and they appear to be okay with the proposed date changes.

“I did have a conversation with some of the bus groups,” he said. “They were happier about the October dates than the earlier September dates.”

Commission member and downtown restaurateur Kevin Gibbs said the later dates for October could create staffing challenges for businesses.

“My staffing issues in October are abysmal,” he said. “It’s a real challenge to staff for four days. I don’t know that I can hold a staff together that late. This is too far back in October. I’d love to have the customers, but it doesn’t make any difference if I can’t serve them.”

Perlozzo said moving Sunfest was not optimal, but it might be the best option to accommodate C3 Presents.

“Do I want to move Sunfest to October?” he said. “No, I don’t. It might be the only way to get it done. That may or may not be the best way, but we at least have to look at it. That [C3] event will be extremely beneficial to the town. It’s an international promoter. It will have acts never seen in town before. … I think we can put together the ideal tourism event calendar for the town. We can work out all of the logistics.”

For his part, Miller agreed.

“When it comes to Sunfest moving, my team is not entirely happy about it,” he said. “If we want C3 to come here, it’s worth exploring.”

Councilman and commission member John Gehrig said moving events around to get the best bang for the town’s buck has always been a point of discussion.

“We’ve talked about filling up hotel rooms for a long time,” he said. “This is a consequence of that.”

DeLuca said he could support moving Sunfest if that was the only way to make the stacked events work, but he didn’t want the setting up and tearing down of tents and other logistical issues dictate the town’s special event policy.

“I didn’t say I liked it or didn’t like it,’ he said. “We shouldn’t let logistics drive the calendar. We can fix the logistics part of it.”

After considerable debate, the commission voted to forward the fall special events calendar issues to the full Mayor and Council for further discussion and ultimately a decision.

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.