The Berlin Performing Arts Committee’s request for seed money from the county to start work on a new community arts center in the old Cannery building off Route 113 was officially rejected by the County Commissioners last week. Based on their comments last week, it appeared to be an easy decision for the commissioners. As far as the county was concerned, it was as if there was no decision to make because finances drove the move. Also declined were funds for a north-end senior center and the extension of a sewer line to Showell Elementary School, which has been operating with an aged septic system for far too long. It’s a shame the county could not support any of these projects, but they did the right thing by not including funding for any of them. If they could not support either of these meritorious projects financially, they should not back any of them. There’s a lot of passion and good heart behind this performing arts initiative. The project needs to happen, and I hope it’s sooner rather than later. If the committee is able to get the project off the ground through private support, the county should again consider giving public money to the effort next year. It’s a good use of government funds and will have widespread ramifications for the business community and, of course, residents, young and old.
I have been spending some time on personal business in the lovely town of West Chester, Pa. of late. One night I was watching TV in a hotel room when a commercial for Ocean City aired. It was a strange thing to behold in a Holiday Inn more than 120 miles from home. It was the “More Fun Here” commercial with the stick figures doing all sorts of activities, including fishing, biking, kite flying, boating and more. Although I think the commercial stinks and does very little to tout the virtues of visiting Ocean City, it was great to see a message at least getting out to the people. My problem with the commercial is it’s long on creative computer images and short on actual footage of Ocean City’s clean beach, Boardwalk, ocean and bay. Nonetheless, at least Ocean City is being promoted in the right markets, even if the message’s chosen format and content is debatable.
According to demoflush population estimates, 226,748 people were in Ocean City over the Memorial Day weekend. That’s a 15-decrease from last year’s holiday weekend. However, there’s no reason to overanalyze that because this year’s Cruisin’ weekend crowd numbers were 14 percent above last year’s. What should be of concern is year to date, through last weekend, Ocean City crowd numbers are running 6 percent below last year, which most labeled as average. It will be interesting to observe if the peak season helps level out these figures. Additionally, as further confirmation less people traveled over the holiday weekend, AAA reported vehicle crossings on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge slipped 3 percent over the holiday weekend compared to last year. It was the same situation for the Delaware Memorial Bridge where traffic was down 6 percent. That’s got high gas prices written all over it.
At a AAA press conference last week, touting the summer travel season, Mayor Rick Meehan read a proclamation reminding potential visitors that Ocean City is the "Best Summer Vacation Destination a Half a Tank of Gas Away." With gas prices near or surpassing the $4 mark in the mid-Atlantic area, this is an obvious and smart marketing concept. Media outlets throughout the region have been reporting families are choosing destinations closer to home this summer because of the pain at the pump. One article I came across online used a Pennsylvania couple as an example. This family traditionally spends 10 days in the Outer Banks each summer. It takes them about 11 hours and a tank and a half of gas to get to their rental property. Due to economic constraints and the soaring cost of gas, the family opted for a four-night stay in Ocean City this year. The trip marks the first time in 10 years the family has been to Ocean City.