Council sets event’s date, Gehrig, Paddack get fiery
(Feb. 19, 2021) Tempers flared between Ocean City Council members on Tuesday when a discussion to reschedule the Jellyfish Festival – a family-oriented two-day music/extreme sports extravaganza – for Sept. 11-12 turned into accusations of backdoor deals over modifying the date for Labor Day weekend at the last minute.
Brad Hoffman of Live Wire Media & Events last held the Jellyfish Festival in June 2019, and it was supposed to take place again in 2020. But like many other events, it was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Hoffman anticipates restrictions related to covid-19 are expected to remain in place in June, so he proposed hosting the festival from Sept. 11-12.
The Jellyfish Festival consists of several family-friendly events like concerts, yoga, a cornhole tournament, fat tire bike zone, fitness zone, and ultimate frisbee zone, and is expected to take place near Dorchester Street.
Before the meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Rick Meehan said, he spoke with Hoffman about the festival, and pointed out that the Wine Fest was the same Sept. 10-11 weekend. Meehan suggested possibly looking at Labor Day weekend because no other events were scheduled.
“I think it would be advantageous to have it on that weekend because I know Brad’s trying to grow that event,” Meehan said.
The mayor suggested Hoffman speak with Frank Miller, the superintendent of special events, to see if the dates would work.
During the council meeting, the event organizer was set on hosting Jellyfish Festival on Labor Day weekend.
“I’m excited to push forward for the Labor Day date,” Hoffman said. “I feel like it could be an anchor for that weekend.
“I want to do what’s best for the town, as always, and I feel like this event is a solid event ... and could really be a good move for the event,” he added.
But the move would be temporary – Hoffman plans to move the festival back to June once the pandemic is over.
Councilman John Gehrig said he saw no problem with having the festival on the same weekend as Wine Fest, and after looking at his calendar a bit, he suggested Hoffman move the event to Sept. 25-26 – the same weekend as the anticipated fall car pop-up rally.
“If you want a lot of people who may like to get a little jelly on, how about the ... 25th and 26th of September,” Gehrig said. “Talk about giving people something to do. We shut everything else down, we just let them run. Talk about giving them a concert.”
Hoffman replied that he would rather stick with hosting his event on Labor Day weekend.
All seven board members voted and approved the date change from Sept. 11-12 to Labor Day weekend.
But shortly after the vote, Gehrig expressed concern about the event and the way the board handled the discussion.
Regarding the discussion between Meehan and Hoffman, Gehrig said it was clear there were discussions before the City Council meeting because it seemed like “everyone had their decision made,” to permit the Jellyfish Festival organizer to host his event on Labor Day weekend.
“The more I’m sitting here since our conversation about ‘Jellyfest,’ it bothers me,” Gehrig said. “Are we ever going to be really serious about impacting pop-up, when we won’t even discuss it? The man who probably speaks their language more than anyone else ... he can put on a concert. We talked about giving them something to do. We have an opportunity to discuss it and we chose not to.”
Meehan wanted to clear the record, saying he only spoke to Hoffman for about 10 minutes. During the conversation, he said, Hoffman asked about the proposal and whether Meehan had any questions. Meehan said he noticed nothing was scheduled for Labor Day weekend and suggested Hoffman speak with Miller and Special Events to see if they had anything planned.
Councilman Mark Paddack said he was unaware of the date change, as did other members of the board. But Paddack called Gehrig out during the discussion for his suggestion to host the concert during pop-up.
“The last thing I would do is take a business promoter with a new concept that he’s trying to get going, and say, ‘Hey, it would be better to have you come up during pop-up and have them destroy your venue,’” Paddack said, explaining that 95 percent of the people who attend pop-up are good, while the other 5 percent make it worse for the rest of the attendees. “You’re not listening to what’s going on. You wanted him to possibly do it at pop-up.
“I’m not going to throw him or any other special event under the bus because we want to take over a week to take over the pop-up event,” he added.
After an intense exchange between the two councilmen, the conversation concluded with the vote on the date already in the books.