With help from city government tourism grants, the next year could welcome glow balloons over the beach, some of the strongest people in the world testing their skills at the convention center and a flag football tournament just outside city limits.
Members of the city’s Tourism Commission gave favorable recommendations this week to issue money from the department’s grant program to pay initial costs and sponsorships for the three potential events.
Don Abramson, the city’s sports marketing manager, presented the details, beginning with a flag football tournament on July 4 weekend at the OC Elevate fields behind the White Marlin Mall in West Ocean City.
Calling it the “little brother” of the NFL version played last weekend in place of the pro bowl, Abramson said the tournament is for players of all ages looking to come not only for the weekend, but the week after. And while the fields are technically not in Ocean City limits, he said the participants will stay in hotels and condominiums across the resort, and have no qualms about the increased rates associated with the holiday.
“These folks were dead set on Fourth of July weekend,” Abramson said. “They actually want it to be a vacation for all families involved.”
Members of the Tourism Commission agreed to recommend to the council that it grant the organizers $5,000 to help with costs for the event.
About a month later, the organizer of the Chesapeake Bay Balloon Festival wants to move the Talbot County event to the coast.
The three-day event, which Abramson said typically attracts about 15,000 people to an isolated vineyard, would take place the first weekend in August at the OC Elevate fields in the daytime, with nighttime glow balloons set for launch at night on the beach downtown.
“People go crazy over this as a social media photo opportunity,” Abramson said of the free balloon laser light show.
The daytime activities include flying hot air balloons — low and tethered and out of the way of flight plans — with crafts, food trucks and other festival elements on the ground below.
Then at night the glow balloons will come out, a spectacle that Kim Mueller, the director of sales for the tourism department, described as “just magical.”
The commission members agreed to issue a favorable recommendation for the town to provide $20,000 for a title sponsorship for the festival.
Finally in December, some world-renowned strong man games are proposed to take place at the convention center.
Abramson said the organizer of the annual event wants to move it from Daytona, Florida because international flights there are expensive and difficult to obtain. He said competitors come from all over the world for the games, which are a feeder for an international competition broadcast on ESPN.
The games are livestreamed and heavily promoted for months in advance, with the organizers bringing a large online following. The event, if approved, is set for the second weekend in December, and Abramson said the athletes will come in a few days early to make weight and then stick around after it is over.
“The restaurants will get a gigantic boom once they make weight,” Abramson said. “Their average daily caloric intake is eight to 13,000 calories a day. They’ll be eating plenty of food once they make weight.”
He added that the organizers want a three-year contract and initially asked for $25,000 for hard costs, but that staff were able to talk them down to $15,000.
Mueller urged approval of the funds and pointed out how much of a benefit the event could be, especially for that time of year.
“So it’s going to be bringing in all of this business at a time when we’re doing Winterfest and trying to expose ourselves [as] a year-round destination,” she said. “Based on the time of year, capitalizing on that, the media opportunity, the international reach, we recommend what they’re asking, $15,000.”
She added that nothing is scheduled at the convention center that weekend, making it a perfect time.
Commission members ultimately voted to give a favorable recommendation to approve the requested funds for the event.