Hot Air Balloon Festival Planned For Ocean City; Illuminated Beach Displays Eyed At Night With Rides, Activities In West OC

Hot Air Balloon Festival Planned For Ocean City; Illuminated Beach Displays Eyed At Night With Rides, Activities In West OC
A scene from the Chesapeake Bay Balloon Glow Festival is pictured.

OCEAN CITY – A popular balloon festival and a national flag football tournament are expected to bring new visitors to Ocean City this summer.

On Monday, the council voted to approve a new Ocean City Balloon Festival, slated to visit the resort area in August, as well as a $5,000 tourism development grant for Flag Football Life, a tournament series to be held July 1-2.

Working with town staff, Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo said his team had developed criteria that was used in recruiting both events to the area.

“As a group, we’ve identified some criteria as we are out recruiting for events,” he town the council this week. “Is it unique? Is it ownable? Does it advance our mission? So before these guys go out, myself included, we have a clear understanding of what we’re looking for in the attractions and events coming through Ocean City.”

Last month, the Ocean City Tourism Commission forwarded a favorable recommendation to approve a $20,000 title sponsorship for the Ocean City Balloon Festival. Developed by Triple Creek, the promoter of the Professional Bull Riding event, Perlozzo said the festival was seeking a move to the Ocean City area.

“It was formerly the Chesapeake Balloon Festival in Easton,” he said. “We did a bit of a recruiting effort. They were looking to find a new location, and we thought Ocean City was it.”

In his presentation this week, Perlozzo said that while the recommendation had a funding request, the promoter was not seeking money from the town. He said staff was simply seeking approval to move forward with the festival.

Officials say the event, to be held Elevate Fields at Seaside Christian Academy, consists of tethered balloons, balloon rides, music, food and daytime activities. An added feature will be the Balloon Glow display, which will be held at night on the beaches of Ocean City.

“Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in finding a location in Ocean City that the balloon operators felt comfortable with,” he said. “At the request of the tourism commission, we did ask if we could move that particular event to Aug. 25, 26 and 27, which they agreed. So it is scheduled for the last week in August with the Balloon Glow continuing to be on our beach three nights as well.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said he had visited the former Chesapeake Bay Balloon Festival. He praised the Balloon Glow component.

“It’s at night, and they light up the balloons. It’s all these different animated characters. It’s absolutely gorgeous,” he said. “I think the families downtown on the Boardwalk will be in awe of this if we pull this off. It’s really something special.”

Perlozzo said that while officials had wanted to hold the event in town, wind conditions and the nearby ocean had been deciding factors in moving the festival outside of Ocean City.

“We figured we’d start small this year, and see where it goes,” he said.

The council this week also considered a favorable recommendation from the tourism commission to approve a $5,000 tourism development grant for Flag Football Life, a youth tournament series that is part of the NFL feeder system. Perlozzo said the event is expected to attract 500 families to the resort this summer.

“That’s why we recommend the $5,000 for flag football,” he said. “We felt like let’s start it and see how it goes. It’s a six-, seven-day vacation for 500 families.”

Perlozzo voiced concerns about the event being held on the Fourth of July weekend. However, he said the tournament could be moved to a later date in future years.

“Unfortunately, it’s in July,” he said. “However, I want you to understand this is part of a national series. It’s got to start somewhere, and we want to be the host location in the future.”

After further discussion, the council voted 6-0, with Councilwoman Carol Proctor absent, to approve the Ocean City Balloon Festival, as well as the $5,000 grant request for Flag Football Life.

In Monday’s meeting, Perlozzo also announced the relocation of this year’s Strongman Games, which was scheduled to be held at the convention center Dec. 15-17. While the tourism commission had made a favorable recommendation to approve $15,000 in tourism development funding for the Strongman Games, Perlozzo said the town had essentially lost the event during the lengthy approval process.

“Unfortunately, with the time between the approval process and all, they’ve decided to go somewhere else,” he said. “So we’re back on the list for 2024 and 2025 as we speak. Hopefully we can get them back.”

Councilman John Gehrig questioned if the council wanted to approve the $15,000 request for future Strongman Games as a way to expedite the process.

“If the terms are different, he has to bring it back before us,” he added.

A motion to approve up to $15,000 in tourism development grant funding for the next Strongman Games was approved in a 6-0 vote.

“As a team, we’re going to get out in front of these and figure out how to expedite the process through the tourism commission,” Perlozzo said. “I will tell you it is an issue when we go to the tourism commission, and they agree. Depending on the timing, it could be four or five weeks before we get a final answer. So we need to discuss how we’re going to manage it.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

Alternative Text

Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.