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Fireworks, festivities went off downtown, Northside Park

With a quick scheduling pivot to avoid a rainout, both of Ocean City’s New Year fireworks shows went off with a positive bang last weekend, creating what could be a precedence for future celebrations.

Resort officials initially planned to blast off fireworks simultaneously at midnight on New Year’s Eve at both Northside Park and downtown near the inlet. The park show was added early last month in response to pleas from north end residents. The Winterfest of Lights hours were set to be extended to 11:30 p.m. that night as well, and the downtown show was supposed to include outdoor movies and other outdoor activities.

But when Saturday’s weather forecast showed heavy rain, some of the plans changed. The downtown fireworks were moved to Jan. 1 and the movies were relocated indoors to the Performing Arts Center at the convention center, which Tom Perlozzo, the city’s director of tourism and business development, deemed the right call.

“The fireworks on … January 1st were outstanding with a good crowd watching,” Perlozzo said in an email this week. “The last-minute move for the drive-in movies to the Performing Arts Center was lightly attended but very well received. The weather is always an ‘X’ factor and provisions by the staff, etc. were handled to allow a pivot and continued celebration.”

Up north, the schedule remained unchanged, which also worked out.

“The weather at Northside Park cleared up and things went without a problem,” Perlozzo said. “The DJ, Winterfest activities, and fireworks were all great. We received lots of comments expressing gratitude for the effort to accommodate things on NYE.”

Last weekend was not the first time outdoor activity plans were changed for weather. Throughout the last year, city officials and event promoters were forced to cancel the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the city’s Christmas parade, most of Springfest, a day of Sunfest and, possibly most notably, the inaugural three-day Oceans Calling Festival a few months ago.

This time, though, officials were able to make the downtown New Year’s fireworks show happen with some effort and collaboration.

“Typically, we start with the fireworks company to see their ability to move to the date,” Perlozzo said of the process to reschedule the downtown show. “Once that occurs, we reach out to the state fire marshal for approval, our fire marshal, public works, etc. If all the approvals are in place, we reschedule all the events around all the staff available.”

The city manager and council members get the final say, he continued, and despite the challenge of the holiday weekend, everything fell into place. Perlozzo also called the move to the PAC for the movies a “blessing” that allowed families to enjoy New Year’s Eve the way they planned, but in a different location.

Perlozzo and his staff are set to discuss hosting a fireworks show at 6 p.m. on New Year’s Day downtown next year given how well it was received, and as of now they are planning to offer the Northside Park show on New Year’s Eve with weather dates in 2023.

And as the winter trudges on, tourism staff members are also focused on promoting the resort as a year-round destination.

“Our department has renewed its commitment to bring improvements, additions and modifications to things in 2023,” Perlozzo said. “Since June of 2021, our team has accepted the challenge to move the resort into a new era attracting different market segments, different media consumptions, etc. Similar to Sunfest, we believe that our Big 3 events (Winterfest, Springfest and Sunfest) will evolve more and more over time.”

Staff members are also in what Perlozzo called “recruitment mode” for new events, meetings, conventions and sporting events, along with hosting a packed schedule at the PAC throughout the winter and spring.

As of now, the major events on the off-season schedule are as follows:

  • Jan. 13 – BB King Experience featuring Claudette King
  • Jan. 14 – Thomas McClary’s (original founder with Lionel Richie) Commodores Experience
  • Jan. 15 – The Spinners
  • March 10 – Marc Roberge of OAR
  • March 19 – Blippi
  • April 1 – Lewis Black (Comedian)
  • May 4 — Springfest

This story appears in the Jan. 6, 2023 print edition of the OC Today.

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