(Sept. 25, 2020) While many of Ocean City’s major special events were shelved this year, one remains on schedule and could bring some cheer to an otherwise gloomy year — the 27th annual Winterfest of Lights.
“Obviously, our goal is to move forward with Winterfest of Lights,” City Special Events Director Frank Miller said. “We’ve always touted that it’s a tradition in Ocean City, it’s a tradition for many families.”
Winterfest of Lights 2020 will take place at Northside Park on 125th Street from Nov. 19 to Jan. 2, Wednesday through Sunday, from 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Tickets are $5 and will be available online only to prevent mass queuing at the entrance located at the ballfield parking lot on Jamaica Avenue.
Last year’s festival drew 103,000 people to the park — 2,000 shy of 2018’s 105,000 guests.
Miller said he and his staff knew the holiday festival could survive covid-19 after seeing the success of the ArtX festival in August.
“That was met with overwhelming thanks from the patrons as well as the vendors,” Miller said. “People felt very comfortable walking around Northside Park [on 125th Street] and enjoyed that event.”
While Winterfest 2020 remains on schedule, some of its key features, the express tram ride and pavilion tent, will be missing this year.
“We had a conversation with the county health officer, who has always been wonderful to deal with, but she had basically mentioned that those are two very big concerns for them [the county health department],” Miller said.
The main obstacle would have been social distancing enforcement, Miller said, which had been one reason the summer tram schedule had been eliminated this year.
“We felt that with all of the concerns and how it would greatly deplete the operation by trying to use those two elements and still try to put on the event just no longer made sense,” Miller said. “We also felt, based on ArtX, people would be more trusting of the event if it were an outdoor walking event.”
Miller said the tram route would be far too long for guests to walk in an appropriate amount of time, so it had been condensed to a path surrounding the lagoon.
The holiday displays would take up less space, and several of the larger displays, not all, would be removed to accommodate the smaller event footprint.
However, “We’re going to add up to 200 lit trees at Northside Park, which has never been done before,” Miller said.
Additionally, although the name does not fit the event, perhaps, Miller said the festival would feature “Easter Eggs,” or surprises for people to find.
Santa Claus this year will be located indoors and children will not be able to sit in his lap, unfortunately. Yet, Miller said a new interactive experience was being worked out, although he could not disclose any details this week.
The park will be filled with Christmas music, a fireworks display will usher in the New Year on Dec. 31 and guests can look forward to Booster’s hot chocolate and other festival staples just like any other year.
Under Mayor Rick Meehan’s emergency declaration, masks are required at all special events, indoors or outdoors. Whether Meehan’s mandate will be in effect by November is unknown, but guests are reminded that under Gov. Larry Hogan’s state orders masks are to be worn outdoors when social distancing is not possible.
“Winterfest has always been an amazing shining star … and we’re not going to let people down this year,” Miller said.