OCEAN CITY – A new entertainment schedule for Ocean City is in the works to bring headline talent to the resort with the hope it will result in extended stays from visitors.
The Mayor and City Council unanimously agreed to approve a proposal brought forward by the Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) to enter into an agreement with Bob Rothermel and Jack Hennen of Special Event TEAM Productions for a multi‐faceted entertainment series for the 2012 season.
According to TAB, Rothermel and Hennen are experienced promoters with the Town of Ocean City’s best interest at heart. In the past, they have booked such talent as Garth Brooks, Dolly Pardon, BB King and Bill Cosby.
“We just need to find the right dates, mid-week dates that have worked in the past, or maybe a Sunday to kind of hold people over,” Rothermel said. “There will be some free events on the beach … years ago, we did a laser show on the beach and what it did was bring a Saturday night to a Wednesday or a Thursday.”
The series of entertainment for next year’s season is proposed to go hand-in-hand with Ocean City’s new “Summer of Thanks” campaign, which is also scheduled to hit the streets next summer.
The proposal includes two to four ticketed concerts along with three to four free events and activities to be scheduled. The series will run June through October.
“One of the new ideas in the campaign is to have the month of October and call it Octoberfest,” Rothermel said. “We would conclude it with a beach maze, like a corn maze on the beach.”
TAB was allocated $300,000 this year, and members recommended the remainder of that fund, about $275,000, be directed toward a portion of the entertainment.
The promoters will also be invested in the expenses since it is anticipated to cost $425,000. They have also proposed a revenue sharing agreement with the town.
Before the council had time to discuss the proposal, Councilman Brent Ashley set a motion to approve the concept.
“I had said back in October when the council approved the High Tide Music Festival that I had hoped that that approval would encourage local promoters such as you to come out with their own original ideas … and I think Bob is one of the best promoters around,” Ashley said.
Although Councilman Joe Hall said he was in support of the proposal, he was disappointed that TAB was suggesting using the remainder of its funding for the project. He added that he has been waiting for almost a year for the marketing concept, OC Experience, to return to council for approval.
Last February, Brad Hoffman of Spark Productions came before the Mayor and City Council proposing OC Experience, which was a marketing campaign on wheels that would travel to consumer travel shows promoting Ocean City and booking visits. At that time, the council approved Joe Hall’s motion to have Spark Productions, the town’s advertising firm, MGH, TAB, and Ocean City Tourism Director Deb Turk review the concept and incorporate it into the tourism budget, or reduce the costs, and have OC Experience return to the council up and running within a year.
“I find it unfortunate that that great idea has lost its mojo … he [Hoffman] should be out there right now with the OC Experience at some kind of show booking people for the summer,” Joe Hall said. “I do think this is a good idea [entertainment series], the right time, and the right place that we should spend some money but we keep jumping around and I have an issue with that.”
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas agreed that OC Experience should return.
“I feel like this is apples and oranges but I thought TAB was still thinking about these shows,” she said. “You need to move forward with that, it should not go out the window.”
TAB Chair Melanie Pursel responded that the group has met with Hoffman several times trying to tweak the concept by coming up with a smaller version but certain elements to the entertainment series proposal makes it more attractive than OC Experience.
“Looking at the diversity of this plan, and the ability to have revenue share, and the ability to have some risk taken by the promoter is a reason why we thought this is a good proposal,” she said.
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones added another reason TAB is recommending the concept is because it ties into the “Summer of Thanks” campaign.
“We want to thank everybody for coming, so here are some new free events and major shows, fireworks or whatever it may be, to thank them for coming,” she said.
Once the council voted to approve the proposal, Mayor Rick Meehan welcomed back Rothermel.
“I have enjoyed the things we have been able to do in the past, and I look forward to the future. You and Jack have proven that you know what Ocean City is about, you know what people are looking for, and I think having you on board will be a big asset.”
Following a tourism department update presented by Tourism Director Deb Turk, councilmembers continued their interest in pursuing consumer travel shows, as OC Experience would have been doing.
“For the last two years, I have heard we need to be at different shows,” Joe Hall said as he set a motion to have Turk investigate the idea and return with a budget proposal in January and the remainder of the council agreed.
Turk said that she has been in contact with a travel show in Washington D.C that has invited her to attend a show in March.
“There is a lot of our competition there, and you’re right they’re there and we’re not,” she said.