OCEAN CITY – As the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia move up the coast, officials this week resumed setup for the highly anticipated Oceans Calling Festival.
The Oceans Calling Festival, a three-day music festival featuring several nationally known acts, is set to begin this Friday off the Ocean City Boardwalk. With attendance expected to reach 50,000 each day, officials say the sell-out event will be the largest of its kind in Ocean City.
“The city has told us that it is the largest ‘ticketed’ event that they have had come through Ocean City,” said Tim Sweetwood of C3 Presents, the festival promoter. “We are proud to be working with them and delivering something new and great that will hopefully, again, last for many years.”
Last year, officials were forced to cancel the inaugural Oceans Calling Festival as the remnants of Hurricane Ian swept through the resort. But Sweetwood said the year delay gave the promoter and the city extra time to not only perfect its safety and traffic plans but expand the festival footprint. This year, the Ocean City Boardwalk will be within the festival grounds, offering festival-goers access to food shops, clothing stores, arcades, amusement park rides and more.
“The additional year gave us more time to prepare and welcome guests to town and to the festival,” Sweetwood said. “We have spent a lot of extra time in areas of safety, traffic plans, site enhancements, etc.”
The extra year also built upon the anticipation of last year’s festival, Sweetwood said. He noted that 2023 Oceans Calling tickets were sold out after a few short months of promotion.
“We have ticket buyers coming from every state, as well as some international buyers,” he said.
Ocean City Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo said the festival is sure to be a boon for the resort. He estimates the event will generate $60 million in economic impact throughout the weekend.
“This is a huge opportunity to showcase Ocean City as a great venue for any kind of event, and from an economic standpoint it checks all the boxes – heads in beds and people in restaurant seats …,” he said. “We are excited for the national attention and to welcome new visitors to Ocean City.”
Ocean City Marketing and Communications Director Jessica Waters agreed.
“We have been looking forward to Oceans Calling for nearly three years, as we have been planning for this festival since May of 2021,” she said. “While we have hosted thousands of phenomenal events over the years, we have yet to host something with such spectacular talent or a music festival with such superb quality as Oceans Calling.
“The festival allows us to showcase our beautiful beach and Boardwalk to international musicians, celebrity chefs, and visitors from every state in the U.S. For many of them, this will be their first visit to Maryland’s Coast, which allows us to make an unforgettable impression and a memory that will hopefully bring them back for future visits.”
In preparation for this weekend’s festival, Waters said C3 Presents and its partners have been working with the Town of Ocean City to develop parking, transportation and safety plans. She said the biggest challenge heading into the weekend will be transportation.
“Above all, our residents should expect a busy weekend, with limited parking and traffic congestion in the downtown area,” she said. “The Ocean City Communications Team created an incredible tool kit highlighting frequently asked questions from residents and employees. It is an excellent guide for parking, transportation, and getting to and from the festival.”
Waters said festival-goers can expect traffic delays, heavy pedestrian and bicycle volumes and limited parking. She said walking or biking to the festival is strongly encouraged. For those who are driving, parking options are available at the West Ocean City Park and Ride, the Ocean City convention center parking lot, and the 100th Street municipal parking lot.
“Our Transportation Department has worked closely with the festival promoter to ensure public transportation operates as efficiently as possible,” she said. “Ocean City’s Beach Bus will travel north and southbound along Coastal Highway and the West Ocean City Shuttle to and from the West Ocean City Park and Ride. For the festival, residents and visitors need to know that the Beach Bus is running an express route during the festival weekend. There will be fewer stops to transport people quicker and more efficiently.”
Waters said those leaving the festival can walk to Baltimore Avenue and catch the northbound Beach Bus, staged between Worcester and Talbot streets. New traffic patterns in the downtown area will also begin at approximately 8 p.m. each night to allow for pedestrian access at the end of concerts.
“Finally, the festival grounds will include the south end of the Boardwalk and the Boardwalk businesses south of North Division Street,” she added. “This means it will only be accessible to concertgoers from Friday through Sunday during the festival. For non-festival goers, the Boardwalk (Atlantic Ave.) from 27th Street to North Division Street will be open to the public.”
Officials noted that additional information can be found on the Oceans Calling website, oceanscallingfestival.com. Festival-goers can also sign up to receive SMS messages, which provide updates in real time.
“We are certainly used to dealing with a large influx of visitors, it happens every summer,” said City Manager Terry McGean. “I am confident that we will be ready for the weekend and look forward to a great event and the opportunity to showcase Ocean City.”
Held Sept. 29-Oct. 1, the Oceans Calling Festival will feature more than 30 performances across three stages at the southern end of the Boardwalk. Artists set to perform include Jack Johnson, Alanis Morissette, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow and The Lumineers. In addition, world-renowned chefs Robert Irvine and Amanda Frietag will be making appearances during cooking demos.
“Again, we expect an incredible weekend for the Oceans Calling Festival, as it is the first of its kind for our resort town,” Waters said. “Thousands of hours of planning from C3 Presents and the Town of Ocean City staff have been put into making this festival an extraordinary event for visitors and residents alike.”