OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Jeep Week will return this year, but on a different weekend.
On Tuesday, the Ocean City Council voted to approve the return of Ocean City Jeep Week, scheduled for May 9-12, 2024. Applicant Amanda Cropper, representing OC4WD, said the change of date is just one change meant to boost participation in the yearly event.
“During COVID we did see a huge drop in numbers, dropping down to about 750 participants,” she said. “So we would like to get our numbers back and possibly surpass what we had previously.”
Last year, the town’s special events department received applications for two Jeep-related events on the same week in August 2024. While one of those events – Ocean City Jeep Fest – was approved by the council last week, Jeep Week organizers opted to move their event to a new weekend, May 9-12.
Jeep Week representative Will Lynch told the council Tuesday the move was made so as not to compete with the Great Smokey Mountain Jeep Invasion. He said the scale of the Tennessee-based event made it difficult to attract vendors and participants to Ocean City.
“That event is drawing 30, 40, 50,000 people,” he explained. “It’s in a huge fairgrounds, and it’s gotten to the point where we can’t compete with that event. We’re losing some of our vendors, we’re losing some of our participants to it. So what we’re after now is a change of dates, moving our event to the spring so we don’t have to compete head to head with an event of that size.”
Lynch said this year’s Ocean City Jeep Week would be similar to previous events. He noted, however, that a request was being made for a different layout.
“We want to move our vendors and our Show and Shine from the convention center to the Inlet parking lot,” he said. “Other than that, we want to do our beach parade, our sand course, everything we’ve done in the past. We just want to move the location and the date.”
Cropper said the north end of the Inlet parking lot closest to the pier would be utilized for Jeep Week activities. Lynch added that the event would continue to feature its traditional sand course, but with a Show and Shine area to the east.
“We did the Show and Shine previously in the convention center parking lot, and that area on the beach we used as a staging for the sand course,” he said of prior year events. “So it’s not additional area, we’re just using it for a different purpose this year.”
Lynch said that by moving the vendor and Show and Shine area to the Inlet parking lot, participants could take advantage of nearby Boardwalk attractions.
“If we can put our event in the hub of everything else that’s happening, it would be a win-win,” he said.
Officials noted Jeep Week would also feature daily morning Jeep parades, which would move north from the Inlet parking lot to 30th Street. Organizers, however, shared their concerns that the reversal from the traditional south-bound route would create issues.
“My biggest concern going south to north is that we’re worried about creating a bottleneck at the beach crossing at 30th Street where we would come off,” Lynch said. “Right now, we go on at 30th Street and dump them into five or six lanes down to the Inlet parking lot to quickly get people off the beach.”
Lynch said he also shared his concerns that Jeeps would have to traverse the roadways on deflated tires. He noted that air inflation stations were located at the Inlet.
“When they leave 30th Street, they have to drive from 30th street to the Inlet with low air pressure,” he said.
Special Events Coordinator Lisa Mitchell told council members that parade routes in 2023 ran from south to north and that there had been no bottlenecking when leaving the beach. She added that the police department preferred the new route, as it did not require the closure of Coastal Highway and Baltimore Avenue for Jeeps to access the beach.
“According to the police department, switching it and moving north worked very well with them,” she said.
Councilman Will Savaged questioned if the Jeep parade could turn around on the beach and return to the Inlet parking lot. Special Events Director Frank Miller said that both the beach patrol and risk management shared concerns regarding that proposal.
“What their concern was is when you go into a situation where you are turning, you are going to start creating a lot more ruts,” he said. “So there was concerns over those ruts, how many there were and how deep they were for that turning location and what that would do who are walking.”
For his part, Council Secretary Tony DeLuca questioned the new event date. He asked if organizers were willing to move the event to April. Organizers said that could present another issue.
“April is also one of the biggest Jeep events we would have to compete against, which is Daytona Beach,” Cropper replied. “And there are a lot of people and a lot of vendors that go there that would not be able to come here. Theirs is a 10-day event.”
After further discussion about the proposed parade route and Inlet parking, the council voted 4-3, with DeLuca and Councilmen Peter Buas and Frank Knight opposed, to approve the request as presented, but to allow the organizers to come back with an alternate parade route if they could mitigate the town’s concerns.