*Balloon fest '21-2-copy.jpeg

Glow balloons are pictured on display at a Talbot County vineyard during the 2021 Chesapeake Bay Balloon Festival. Council members issued support this week to hold the event locally at the end of August.

Strong man games fall through, pre-approved for later

Two out of three new events floated for the coming months in and around Ocean City are coming to fruition with support from the City Council and resort tourism grants.

At a meeting Monday, council members voted to approve $5,000 in tourism development funds for a flag football tournament Fourth of July weekend and voiced support for a hot air balloon festival the last weekend in August.

Details of the events, along with a strong man contest proposed for the winter, were presented to the Tourism Commission last month for support. The commission responded with favorable recommendations and council members followed up Monday.

Tom Perlozzo, the city’s director of tourism and business development, said the world-renowned strong man contest, which was floated for the second weekend in December at the convention center, will not happen this year despite staff members’ best efforts.

“Unfortunately, with the time between the approval process and all, they decided to go somewhere else,” Perlozzo said of the organizers. “We’re back on the list for ’24, ’25 as we speak. So hopefully we can get them back.”

In response to the news of losing the international event, which is moving from Daytona this year due in large part to air travel costs, council members expressed disappointment.

“I was sorry to see strong man go,” said Councilman Frank Knight. “It was a great date and I hope to get it back in ’24.”

To help with those efforts, Councilman John Gehrig suggested pre-approving contracts for future events.

“It stings with the strong man, and we lost it because of our process,” he said.

Council members voted 6-0, with Councilwoman Carol Proctor absent, to pre-approve $15,000 in tourism development funds to support the strong man games for the next available date.

The flag football event, which will take place at the OC Elevate fields in West Ocean City, also spurred some questions from council members about the July date. Knight asked if there were any attempts to urge the organizers to pick a different time given how busy the resort gets on and around the July 4 holiday.

Perlozzo said staff members tried to move it but because the event is part of a national circuit there was not much wiggle room for the first year. However, he is optimistic about the future.

“They’re very receptive of working with us,” Perlozzo said of the organizers. “My hopes are to eventually create that as a state-of-play event and move that more toward the end of the summer.”

For the Ocean City Balloon Festival, as it is officially called, Perlozzo said staff members tried to find a location in city limits for the daytime events, which include flying hot air balloons, hosting vendor tents and more, but were not successful. Instead, the festival portion will take place Aug. 25, 26 and 27 at the OC Elevate fields, with a nighttime glow balloon show commencing all three nights over the beach downtown.

Formerly called the Chesapeake Balloon Festival, the event is moving to the coast this year from Talbot County.

The event has attracted large crowds annually at its former location and is expected to do the same locally.

Mayor Rick Meehan said he has attended the festival before in Talbot County and gave a positive review of the nighttime show.

“The balloon glow is unbelievable,” he said. “At night they light up the balloons and they’re all different figures, different animated characters … I’ve got pictures of it and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s something I think the families down there on the Boardwalk and all, they’re going to be in awe of this.”

This story appears in the March 10, 2023 print edition of the OC Today.

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