As of last summer, there was hope Ocean City could land the U.S. Navy Blue Angels demonstration team for the 2024 Ocean City Air Show. With the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds already secured for 2023, the focus was on 2024 for the first Blue Angels show since 2019. Those hopes were dashed this week when the Navy’s jet team released its 2024 schedule. The Blue Angels will be in La Crosse, Wis. on June 15-16, 2024, the dates of the resort’s annual show.
During a council meeting last summer, there was much discussion about the air show, future preferred dates and what the city considers a headline act. While reviewing a proposed terms sheet, city officials stated they consider a headline act either the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels. There was a reluctance to call two single military jets performing as headline acts as the terms sheet had initially considered. The item stated, “no less than one of the following: the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; the U.S. Navy Blue Angels; the Canadian Air Force Snowbirds; or two or more U.S. military single ship jet demonstrations.”
The consensus seemed to be Ocean City wanted to return to previous years when the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels rotated each year. “The headliners are the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels,” Mayor Rick Meehan said last June. “Those are the acts that make the air show go. I think we need to have one or the other to do the air show. That’s just me. They make it a patriotic American air show. That’s the draw. To have them in conjunction with these other teams, that’s even better.” The mayor’s opinion here represents most folks’ hopes. It seems as far as the Blue Angels are concerned the hard feelings from 2019 when a police escort to and from Wallops Island was not provided persist. The hope remains time will do its thing and the team will eventually return to Ocean City.
As far as scheduling the event itself, Father’s Day weekend is also a big point for air show organizers. Paid event attendance was down about 30% last summer when it was held June 11-12, a week before Father’s Day. The ideal weekend for attendance and the demo teams coincides with Father’s Day, according to the promoter. From a spectator standpoint, the last performance day of air show weekend falling on Father’s Day is a good thing.
Complicated is a suitable way to describe the riverboat situation in Snow Hill.
Two years ago, the Worcester County Commissioners approved in a 4-2 vote (Chip Bertino and Jim Bunting opposed) a $400,000, no-interest loan to Snow Hill to buy the 149-passenger Black Eyed Susan riverboat. At that time, the county estimated the boat could generate revenues between $250,000 and $3 million each year. It was an asinine scale of potential earnings that should have been dismissed outright when discussed. Fast forward to the spring of 2022, after a handful of cruises in 2021, the boat was found to be in disrepair, requiring about $600,000 to regain operational capacity. A statement from the Town of Snow Hill at the time read, “Preliminary reports indicate that a wide range of issues have been discovered covering the boat’s structure and engines, many of which would not have been found when the boat was inspected in the water prior to purchase.” The boat never was used in 2022 as a result.
This is an unfortunate problem borne out of a reasonable approach to economic development. The problem is the boat is essentially a lemon at this point and Snow Hill does not know what to do at this point. This week the Snow Hill Council held a public input session on what to do next with the boat. No decisions were made but Mayor Mike Pruitt acknowledged two bankers advised the town to cut its losses. He also reported even if Snow Hill could foot the repair bills needed now the town could be looking at annual repair bills of $100,000 based on research.
The council is expected to soon reconvene on the boat. None of the options look good and unfortunately today this purchase looks like a terrible mistake for all involved.
There was a lot of blunt talk between the Ocean City Mayor and Council and the Ocean City Planning Commission this week. Though there was some friction on some issues, all seemed to agree Ocean City needs to do something about exterior LED lighting on buildings. The Cambria Hotel north of the Route 50 Bridge best epitomizes the concerns, but there will be more projects in the future using similar lighting.
After a long conversation this week, it appears the city could begin approaching the problem of ambient light as it does noise complaints. The city has purchased light meters to determine some potential code changes to address the issue moving ahead. Staff was asked to return with suggestions as to next steps. On the topic, City Manager Terry McGean said, “I think we’ve all heard the complaints. We’ve heard about the Cambria, and we’ve heard about Rivendell. We all agree we have a problem. If the Mayor and Council and the planning commission believe there is a problem, staff can work on it and come back with a solution.”
Planning and Community Development Director Bill Neville added, “It might follow a similar path as the noise on the Boardwalk issue. We have to measure the ambient contributors and not just the single source. There are three options, really. We can acknowledge we are aware of the issue and do nothing, we can acknowledge we are aware of the issue and direct staff to look at the problem, or we can move forward and draft an ordinance to address the problem.”