WINTERFEST

Winterfest 2021 is off to a bustling start after town officials tallied 1,926 visitors on opening night, compared to 1,156 in 2020. All tickets and merchandise sales were up compared to last year’s celebration, which saw event planners totally scrapping the old tram ride idea for a more socially distant walkthrough plan, which was a hit last year and the choice once again for this year.

The new-look Winterfest is underway and the early numbers indicate pre-covid crowds are back and then some.

“I know our numbers are way up, based on what (I’ve seen),” Ocean City Special Events Director Frank Miller said. “Our gift shop is up 53 percent over (from Nov. 18-21).”

Opening night last Thursday drew 1,926 people, compared to 1,156 on opening night last year. Miller counted 3,200 on-site ticket sales from Nov. 19-21, too, up 4 percent from 2020.

The sales increases also include 35 percent and 37 percent spikes from last year at the Glow shop and Santa House, respectively.

As has been the case the last few years, Saturday is far and away the busiest day from Thursday to Sunday.

Miller attributed the resurgence to a few factors.

“I would say it’s a combination of people not being quite as shy to come out as they were before ... hopefully, also the fact that we’ve expanded the experience and people absolutely enjoyed it in 2020,” he said. “Word has gotten out that it’s a really good, family-friendly experience.”

The successful first week is a nice benchmark, too, with Thanksgiving weekend up next, which Miller said is their busiest weekend typically.

Like last year, Winterfest is highlighted by an new walkthrough setup, as opposed to the old tram ride. The walking path this year, expanded from last year’s iteration, offers the option to take a shorter or longer stroll through the park. Hot chocolate, a Winterfest mainstay provided by the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Boosters, is available along the walkway as well.

Crowd-favorite and new photo hotspots and two photo options with Santa Claus — Santa’s sleigh or chair — are available for attendees as well.

Every Wednesday, pets are permitted for “Furry Friends Day.”

Winterfest runs every week from Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30-9:30 p.m, until Jan. 1.

Admission is $5 for guests 12 years and older and free for children 11 and younger. Tickets are available online and at the event, but patrons are urged to obtain tickets beforehand.

Call 410-250-0125 or visit https://www.ococean.com/events/winterfest-of-lights2021 for more information.

This story appears in the print edition of the OC Today on Nov. 19.

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