Sunfest Move All About Stacking Events

Sunfest Move All About Stacking Events

Decisions reflect the changing times. The pushing of Sunfest to late October is an example, and history tells us time will judge whether it’s the right move. One thing we do know is it’s controversial.

The early consensus from the general residential and visiting public appears to be opposition to this change. New events – such as an unproven and unconfirmed concert weekend — should not push out an established, traditional event like Sunfest, some argue. Another real concern comes from business owners who say they will not have the staffing to meet the demands of a traditional Sunfest crowd, assuming the weather is solid and event attendance is unchanged by the push back. Others in the hotel industry say they will not alter their plans to close after the fall Cruisin weekend as a result of Sunfest being held the following weekend.

We agree with the rationales expressed, but ultimately support the decision if it truly means lengthening the season and it comes with no negative consequences for Sunfest, such as loss of vendors, impacting major live music acts and decreased attendance. The last being the most important. If attendance declines at Sunfest, and the weather is not to blame, the city will need to weigh the gains with the losses.

What’s unknown and clearly driving the opposition to moving Sunfest back a month from its typical spot in September is the lack of information about the C3 Presents event. No details have been presented publicly about what this event will be aside from city officials in the know predicting whatever event comes to Ocean City will be major. The fact the event is tentatively eyed for the same weekend as Firefly in Dover has some in the business community surmising some of the national acts taking the stage for that festival could also be coming to the resort. The early thought based on the company’s background is it would be a multi-day festival featuring concerts utilizing the same physical format as OC BikeFest.

Though we do find risk with moving Sunfest further into the fall, we support the concept and goal of having a significant special event each weekend of September and October. With Sunfest pushed to Oct. 20-23, the special event calendar for September and October is full and offers diverse attractions during the fall shoulder season, which has more potential for growth than the spring. Barring tropical activity, the weather is typically lovely here through October. The same cannot be said for April and May in most years.

It’s natural for the special event date change to be scrutinized, but in early November it will be known if it was a good move. No long commitment has been made to Sunfest now being a late October event. The intentions of the new concert promoter may not be long term. In fact, it might be a one year and done deal depending on ticket sales. Sunfest will likely move back if the new event does not go well. There’s fluidity here so long as the commitment remains from the popular vendors and the live entertainment can stay competitive and mainstream. An open mind helps with these sorts of changes.

When Winterfest was made pedestrian only in 2020, it was initially frowned upon. It turned out to be one of Ocean City’s great success stories borne out of the pandemic. Another example of a sour reaction to a bold change was when Ocean City merged its municipal election in October with the typical election day in November. Traditionalists said they would miss the standalone day, but all would agree it’s the best from a practical standpoint as well as voter turnout (though it was poor in 2020). Additionally, we remember when the OC Air Show was introduced in its early years there was not robust support it. The same for the biker event that’s now one of the busiest weeks of the year for many operators.

Though we understand the criticism of the change, it’s imperative to remember Sunfest will only stay in October if it’s successful. If it turns out to be a bad call, the city can reverse directions next year.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.