chase

It could flow into weekend used by car pop-up rally

(Nov. 20, 2020) While nothing is official yet, some Ocean City officials see an opportunity to take the offensive against the annual tuner car pop-up rally by extending the Ocean City BikeFest to two weekends — a move that would cost the city $250,000.

Event promoter Chase Micheal made the request to the Ocean City Tourism Commission on Monday, and began by highlighting the event’s selling points. 

“Over the past decade, we’ve produced what we like to think of as a nationally recognized event and one of the premiere events of Ocean City,” Micheal said. 

OC BikeFest, which is produced by OC Jams LLC, is one of the biggest motorcycle and concert series in the country, drawing anywhere from 150,000 to 170,000 participants each year.  

Micheal said the event has a proven record of success and has required less in the way of public services such as police each year. 

“We conservatively estimate that 80 percent of all of our 150,000-plus annual attendees have attended at least four times, since the inception of the event in 2011,” Micheal said. 

One of the event’s greatest contributions to the resort’s economy is room stays, as Micheal said it has led to 98 percent hotel occupancy rates during its weekend run. 

He also pointed out the event’s contribution to the monthly occupancy rate during September. 

Last September saw an average hotel occupancy rate of 71.5 percent, according to Smiths Travel Research metrics, which puts the city above competing markets such as Virginia Beach, Virginia, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Jersey Shore, New Jersey, Micheal said. 

A huge event already, OC BikeFest could be more, and the Wisconsin-based OC Jams want to see it gain further national acclaim comparable to Coachella or Bonnaroo music festivals. 

To do so, Micheal said organizers wanted to add an additional weekend to the schedule, either the weekend before or the one after Sept. 15-19. Micheal also said organizers hoped to strike a four-year commitment with the city, with an annual dollar-to-dollar match of $250,000. 

Micheal said he is confident that the event’s expansion would not dilute the number of participants, a concern expressed by Michael James, managing partner at the Carousel Group. 

To avoid such an outcome, however, Micheal said OC Jams needed approval soon, so it could begin contacting high-profile bands and create a lineup worth staying for. 

Councilman John Gehrig said he only cared for the weekend following the original date, as it would collide with the pop-up rally, assuming it occurs when it normally does.

Gehrig said filling that weekend with motorcycle riders would drive up lodging rates and essentially “squeeze” out the unruly car enthusiasts.  

“They [pop-up rally participants] were complaining about high rates this year,” Gehrig said. “If there are fewer rooms to book, it puts pressure on that group.” 

Councilman Matt James concurred, although some members of the tourism commission pointed out a flaw to the strategy. 

“Do you think it would be a possibility that they [pop-up rally participants] would just move to a different weekend?” asked Stephanie Meehan, operator of Funcade on the Boardwalk. 

Meehan also said she was concerned that OC BikeFest coinciding with the pop-up rally could harm the reputation of the motorcycle event. 

Kevin Gibbs, president of the Ocean City Development Corporation, said the mashed events could escalate into physical confrontations between the motorcyclists and the car enthusiasts.  

Gehrig said the move would be a victory in itself, as the pop-up rally group had taken over that third weekend of September. 

“They have private ownership of that weekend. They’ve taken us over,” Gehrig said. “I don’t think they’re going to be anxious to move. Frankly, if they move that’s a major victory, and then phase two kicks and we figure out how to deal with them if they move.” 

James and Gehrig said the promoters must have the confidence to put on a successful second weekend and to gauge how its guests would fare. 

“As far as escalation, this thing is so big now, this pop-up [event], that I don’t think any of us expect that any solution will be easy or convenient or perfect,” Gehrig said. “There’s going to be risk in anything, and we already have police in riot gear.” 

Commission members agreed that communication would be key, but if the additional weekend proved a successful offense against the pop-up rally, the expense would be worth it. 

The request will be sent to the full mayor and City Council.

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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