OCEAN CITY – Winterfest of Lights attracted more visitors this year than ever.
There were 107,405 visitors that rode through the Winterfest of Lights on the Express tram. Over New Year’s weekend, there were almost 11,000 riders, including 2,000 on Sunday alone to close out the event. Coming in second in years of high attendance is 2001 with a ridership of 93,937.
“That is the largest in the history of the event,” Special Events Director John Sullivan said.
Sullivan said that he would like to believe that attendance will increase into the future but weather is a large factor when it comes to turnout as it does with any special event.
“This year we had incredibly beautiful weather,” he said.
Sullivan added that Ocean City’s average temperature this season was four to five degrees above normal and there were no weekends during Winterfest that the event had to close due to rain or snow.
In 2010, the event had to close down for two days during the busiest time of the year due to the blizzard that hit the region the day after Christmas. Last year there were a total of 84,230 who visited Winterfest.
Recreation and Parks Department Director Tom Shuster said as of Wednesday Winterfest’s revenue had reached over $500,000. Last year’s revenue reached around $367,000.
“We were thrilled with the response to Winterfest this year and we had large and consistent crowds throughout the entire 46 days that we were in operation,” Shuster said.
According to demoflush population estimates, there were 106,548 visitors in town over New Year’s weekend. Demoflush is an estimate based on the wastewater flow from Ocean City.
Communications Manager Donna Abbott said the closest weekend she could find in her records was in 2006 when there were little over 112,000 visitors in Ocean City over New Year’s weekend.
“Over the years, it has become a destination for people and a tradition to celebrate the New Year in Ocean City,” she said.
Abbott added that over the years the town has increased its marketing focused on the holiday season.
“Just to remind people that we are here and it is a great place to celebrate,” she said. “When you add Winterfest to the mix and the Penguin Swim, and even the Mayors Open House … it is all part of the experience and the package, and the weather certainly helps tremendously.”