Drone Show

Ocean City officials voted this week to eliminate nearly all of the fireworks displays that were scheduled to take place over the summer, and replace them with drone shows set to music.

City Council decides to go with something different

(March 19, 2021) After being wowed by T.E.A.M. Productions Owner Bob Rothermel on the idea of bringing drone shows to Ocean City, Ocean City Council members on Monday voted to spend $382,400 on added value events that will bring high-flying illuminated aircraft to beach audiences and eliminate all but the two holiday fireworks displays. The surviving shows would take place on July Fourth and New Year’s Eve.

Rothermel presented his plan of added events to council members for the third time Monday after being asked previously to consider adding drone shows similar to one in Milwaukee that council members watched on their phones.

In February, Rothermel told council members he could bring drones to Ocean City at a cost of $200,000. The cost included Rothermel purchasing 200 drones at $500 each, or $100,000, as well as eight shows. In his presentation, he proposed a cost of $382,400, which is still the case.

During his presentation on Monday, Rothermel offered to do 12 12-minute shows set to music on the beach downtown and at Northside Park in coordination with Sundaes in the Park, replacing the fireworks shows.

“Doing so would give us something really big to talk about for the summer,” Rothermel said. “It is what’s coming in the future.”

He said he needed something to augment the shows and decided to set each one to music.

“It’s the hook that nobody else has,” Rothermel added.

Councilman Matt James asked how far the drone shows could be seen, suggesting that the traditional fireworks shows could be seen for miles, while the drones would only be visible to those people who are near them.

Rothermel said the drones can be seen from a 180-degree viewing area, before saying people should be able to see the drones from across Coastal Highway.

James told Rothermel he was concerned about taking all of the fireworks shows away, and the fact that people from 120th Street and north will not be able to see the drones.

“I think people are looking for something big and different,” Mayor Rick Meehan said, telling the board and Rothermel he supported the drone shows. “I think this is a nice, new, fresh direction ... at a time when people are looking for something different.”

Rothermel originally told council members that he wanted a two-year agreement to ensure he gets his money back on the efforts he was putting into the shows as well as the drone purchases.

But when Councilman Peter Buas questioned the two-year agreement, the discussion quickly turned to offering Rothermel a one-year agreement  –  especially since the drone proposal had not been presented to the Tourism Commission.

Ultimately, Rothermel said he would do a one-year agreement with the hope for renewal, though he would rather not.

Some other events that are included in the $382,400 proposal included rolling out an American flag dubbed the “Big Flag” on the Friday before Memorial Day to honor frontline workers and military personnel who lost their lives while serving the country, a drive-in concert for the first weekend of June that has been approved by the Worcester County Health Department, and a lighter summer concert series than previously proposed. Rothermel said he needed to cut back on the series to help cover the costs of the drones.

In addition to those events, Rothermel said he hopes to have a major concert during the last weekend of August. He said he would sell pods that can fit 4-6 people, socially distanced, to view the show. This concert would not be a city-funded event, so nothing would come out of pocket from Ocean City, he said.

Additionally, T.E.A.M. Productions will still be involved with planning events during ArtX and O.C.Toberfest, which will include a pet parade, drive-in movie, and Great Pumpkin Race.

Rothermel said drone shows will begin on June 13 and can be seen on Thursdays at the beach and Sundays at Northside Park. The final drone show will take place on Labor Day weekend.

“I was an advocate for the fireworks ... but drones are the way to go,” Councilman Mark Paddack said. “I will be supporting this.”

When the proposal came to a vote, council members voted 6-1 in favor, with James voting against.

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