SNOW HILL – A new festival celebrating Worcester County’s maritime culture and heritage will come to the West Ocean City harbor this fall, if some of the details can be ironed out.
Worcester County Tourism Director Lisa Challenger, West Ocean City hotel owner Annemarie Dickerson, and Charles Petrocci, a Pocomoke resident, who runs a similar event for Cape Hatteras, propose to bring “A Day On The Docks” to the north side of the West Ocean City harbor on Oct. 12.
“There’s been no event or celebration specifically on maritime cultural heritage and history,” said Petrocci.
Worcester County has a long tradition of commercial fishing, sport fishing, lifesaving and seafood that heritage tourists and residents should be educated about, he said.
“A Day At The Docks” will be free. Plans for the event call for West Ocean City’s modest commercial fishing fleet to be featured, along with demonstrations on fish cleaning and crab eating and seafood cooking contests.
Music and a tent offering information from fishing associations and water protection groups round out the picture.
Planners hope to attract a celebrity appearance from the commercial fishing reality series “The Deadliest Catch.”
The event will also feature a blessing of the fleet.
“There’s been nothing offered like this in this area,” said Petrocci. “We’re proposing to start small and grow from there.”
Dickerson feels that the area maritime heritage is under threat and must be preserved.
“For a lot of people, they think that the harbor has always been multi-million homes,” said Dickerson.
Planners hope that the maritime festival will become a target event for visitors.
Petrocci called the festival an economic multiplier with financial benefit to surrounding businesses.
Organizers said they would put revenue from vendor fees back into the event as it becomes established. Future revenues might be dedicated to the Ocean City Reef Foundation, said Dickerson.
County officials and staff had some logistical questions for event organizers.
Public Works Director John Tustin sent a memorandum to Challenger, asking organizers to limit the event to the far eastern end of the parking lot bordering the harbor and commercial boat slips.
That would severely cramp the event, Challenger said at the commissioner meeting.
The map of the set-up Tustin asked for does not exist yet as the event plans are in the early stages.
“It is a busy time of year. It’s the beginning of the fall fishing season,” said Tustin. “You’d basically be shutting down the entire facility for the day.”
The harbor has eight commercial and six non-commercial slips.
The commercial boat slips are guaranteed two parking spaces at all times in the lease contract, Tustin said.
“We’re not going to shut it down,” Commission President Virgil Shockley said.
“We want them there,” Petrocci said of the commercial fleet.
The heavily-used boat ramp is another sticking point.
Boaters could travel to the Assateague boat ramps, within seven miles, Dickerson said. She suggested setting up an electronic sign to direct boaters south during the event.
“I think they need to come back with more information,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.
The commissioners voted unanimously to support the concept, but asked for more logistical detail.
“I think it’s a wonderful event. It’s long overdue to have something special for the boating industry,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs.