OCEAN CITY — Despite the disappointment of the cancellation of the three-day music festival last weekend, there appears to be mutual optimism in bringing the major concert series back next year for a second chance.
The stage was literally set late last week for what promised to be the biggest music festivals ever in the resort. The three-day line-up included several front-liners including Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on Friday night, the Lumineers on Saturday night, Alanis Morrisette on Sunday and a couple appearances by Maryland’s own O.A.R. along with numerous other bands practically around the clock all weekend on three stages in and around the Inlet lot on either side of the pier.
Throughout last week, event crews were putting together the three-stage venue, including the main stage on the northside of the pier, along with grandstands, VIP areas and other amenities, all while keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Ian, which made landfall and ravaged areas of Florida early last week before heading north. By midday last Thursday, just about 24 hours before the first act was set to hit the stage, event producer C3 Presents, in conjunction with town officials, made the difficult decision to cancel the event.
The decision, although difficult, proved to be the right one. The remnants of Hurricane Ian did reach the resort area by Friday and eventually evolved into a full-blown classic nor’easter, bringing heavy rain, high surf, beach erosion and flooding to the downtown area which continued into midweek.
While the cancellation proved to be the right call, it did little to mask the disappointment of the event producers, town officials and the estimated 40,000 fans who had purchased ticket packages. At the close on Monday’s meeting, Mayor Rick Meehan said the outcome was disappointing, but the right decision was made. Meehan said even before the last vestiges of the storm left the area, the promoters were already working with the town to bring the Oceans Calling Festival back next year.
“We’re all disappointed that the concert was cancelled for all of the right reasons as is currently evident after the decision was made,” he said. “I think C3 Presents really became vested in our community and remains committed to putting on a concert here. They’ve already talked to us about coming back next year and planning ahead and meeting with our staff sometime in October to talk about next year, so that’s the good news.”
Meehan said the venues C3 Presents were putting together on the beach downtown were impressive and hinted at what could have been a major event for the resort. Early this week, crews were still battling high winds and heavy surf as they attempted to break down the concert stages and venues.
“If you looked out there and had the opportunity to see the city they were building on the beach, it was really incredible,” he said. “This is a first-class company and when they made the announcement, I think everybody knew right away they were going to do the right thing and ticket purchases would be refunded. I think that message was very clear right from the beginning, and it helped establish their credibility.”
Meehan said despite the event’s cancellation, many of those who had purchased tickets and made arrangements to come to Ocean City came anyway.
“What’s interesting enough it a lot of people still came to Ocean City,” he said. “They were planning to come, and they came from all over the country. I was on the Boardwalk a lot this weekend and I ran into them. They came from Baltimore and Virginia, of course, but they also came from places like Kansas. They all came anyway.”
Meehan said on Monday during his meetings with C3 Presents principal Tim Sweetwood during the planning stages leading up to the event he was told the company’s concert-going fans were a dedicated group willing to endure rain or other weather issues, but the hurricane turned nor’easter simply wasn’t safe. He also referenced the potential logistic problems with moving thousands of concert-goers after the headline acts each night of the festival.
“It ties back to what Tim Sweetwood told us,” he said. “Most of these people are used to going to concerts and they know it might be backed up when they’re trying to leave and they know they can be cancelled. A large percentage of them came anyway and made the best of it.”
Meehan said he spoke with Boardwalk business owner Greg Shockley of Shenanigans on Monday about the weekend crowds despite the weather and the concert cancellations.
“I spoke with Greg Shockley today and he wanted me to pass along he had a terrific weekend,” he said. “What he wanted to pass on was all of the people from other areas of the country that came to Ocean City and said they would be back next year. It was disappointing, but I think it really laid the groundwork for a great experience in the future.”