Resort Officials Approve 3-Year Fireworks Contract

OCEAN CITY – Although not entirely satisfied with losing a New Year’s Eve show at Northside Park, resort officials this week approved a bid recommendation for a three-year contract with a private sector company to provide fireworks shows in Ocean City.

The Ocean City Mayor and Council had before them on Tuesday a recommendation to approve a three-year contract with Celebrations Fireworks to provide pyrotechnic displays in the resort for the next three years. Celebrations Fireworks was one of three bidders for the shows planned for the Fourth of July and on New Year’s Eve for the entire three years.

One company did submit a bid for three years, but only for the New Year’s Eve show only, while another company only bid for fiscal year 2023 and not the entire three years desired by the town. The budgeted amount for a single year was $108,000 for three displays in 2023. Celebrations Fireworks’ bid for the entire three years was $357,000, or $116,000 in the first two years and $125,000 in the third year.

Procurement Manager Scott Wagner presented the bid recommendation to the Mayor and Council on Tuesday. He said the proposal included two fireworks shows on the Fourth of July at the traditional downtown beach location and at Northside Park. It also includes one fireworks show on New Year’s Eve at the downtown location only and not at Northside Park.

“This will allow us to provide shows for the next three years,” said Wagner. “Celebrations was the only bidder to present the entire three years and they have a proven track record with the town.”

Wagner said the New Year’s Eve show, which will be held this coming year, will include the downtown beach alternate location only. Under the proposal, there will not be a New Year’s Eve fireworks show uptown at Northside Park.

Wagner said the option of an uptown show at Northside Park was explored but was ultimately dropped from consideration because of potential safety issues and conflicts with Winterfest of Lights, which will still be going on then.

“The New Year’s Eve fireworks show will be presented at the beach alternate location, or the same downtown location as our Fourth of July fireworks,” he said. “This will provide ample parking and excellent viewing areas from all around the beach and Boardwalk and bring added people to the Boardwalk and hopefully added business.”

Wagner explained the vendors had reservations about launching from the pier at Northside Park and the only other alternative was launching from the far end of the soccer field. However, doing so would effectively close a larger portion of Winterfest of Lights on December 31 due to a firework safety radius of 600 feet for the six-inch shells.

“It would only impact one day, but the effect would be significant,” he said.

Not all were keen on the proposal to hold New Year’s Eve fireworks only on the beach downtown near the Boardwalk. Council President Matt James said he preferred an alternative that included the north end of town, arguably more populated in late December.

“I’d prefer to see Northside Park included for New Year’s Eve,” he said. “I think we should have a show up north.”

He continued, “It’s not going to kill the whole deal if it’s not included, but I’m disappointed to see it’s not up there.”

James, however, agreed the logistics and potential conflicts with Northside Park and Winterfest of Lights were challenging.

“So, we can’t do it from the soccer pier because of Winterfest of Lights,” he said. “We can’t do it from the pier because it’s too long. It’s just disappointing.”

The council unanimously voted in favor of the three-year contract with Celebrations for two shows on the Fourth of July – both downtown and uptown – and one show on New Year’s Eve at the downtown beach location.

Ocean City has not had much luck recently with its Fourth of July fireworks, which have either been canceled or moved to a different date for the last three years.

In 2020, the annual Fourth of July fireworks shows were canceled during the height of the pandemic and concerns about large crowds the event would draw in a small area.

In 2021, the Fourth of July fireworks shows downtown and at Northside Park were set to return, but as the vendor’s crew was off-loading the pyrotechnics from a box truck on the beach at Dorchester Street, one of the explosives detonated, causing a chain reaction that set off other fireworks at the scene, and out of an abundance of caution, the planned shows downtown and at Northside Park were canceled.

This past summer, the town contracted with a vendor to produce simultaneous fireworks shows downtown and at Northside Park on the Fourth of July, but the vendor reported in June the shows could not be produced as planned because of a labor shortage in the industry.

Instead, the town’s fireworks shows were condensed and moved to July 5.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

Alternative Text

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.