OCEAN CITY — With picture-perfect weather and a diverse line-up featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, last weekend’s OC Air Show was one of the biggest and best in recent memory.
Everything lined up just right for with a perfect forecast and the Blue Angels back in the line-up on what has essentially become a two-year rotation for the headliner between the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and their Navy counterparts. Jets and planes of all sizes started making their presence felt with flyovers in the resort beginning midweek last week including a practice on Friday.
By midday on Saturday, the anticipation reached its zenith as the air show began to unfold against the backdrop of clear blue skies and white puffy clouds. The momentum built throughout the afternoon on Saturday, reaching a crescendo with the sudden and often jolting appearance of the Blue Angels, which are often heard before they are seen.
Mayor Rick Meehan offered his assessment of the 2019 event at the close of Monday’s council meeting and thanked the performers, the event’s promoters and the various town departments that contributed to its success.
“It was a great event,” he said. “The weather was perfect on both Saturday and Sunday and really couldn’t have been much better.”
With the success of the event comes the requisite traffic jams following the special event and last weekend’s tie-ups were among the worst ever for some. Anecdotally, there were many reports of taking over an hour to go just 10 blocks and traffic backed up along all major arteries including Coastal Highway, Baltimore Avenue and St. Louis Avenue. Meehan on Monday acknowledged the post-event traffic problems, which are largely unavoidable with so many people crammed into the downtown area for the annual spectacle.
“I know we still have some transportation issues to resolve,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to move all of those people converging in one general area. We will continue to look at ways to make it better.”
Despite a rough trip back to wherever residents and visitors were going after the air show, the event left enthusiasts with an overall feel-good vibe, according to Meehan.
“Saturday at noon I was standing on the Boardwalk for the opening ceremony and they introduced the 14-year-old girl who was going to sing the national anthem and the narrator asked everyone on the beach to turn and face the flag,” he said. “The thing that was so unbelievable is it was not only the people on the beach for the air show that stood up, it was all of the people behind us on the balconies and in the hotel areas on the Boardwalk.”
Meehan said the swelling of patriotic pride associated with the air show also carried over to the Boardwalk.
“Most of the people on the Boardwalk stopped and stood at attention during the anthem as well,” he said. “If I had to give you a number, I’d say 99.5% of the people on the Boardwalk stopped and but their hands over their hearts for the Star-Spangled Banner.”
Meehan said the display of patriotism during the anthem and the start of the show was refreshing during a time when many have grown cynical about their country.
“It makes you feel good because it’s not something you see enough of in 2019,” he said.
For the resort’s business community, air show weekend continued to be the real catalyst for the summer season. To be sure, there were big crowds on the traditional Memorial Day weekend, which was also blessed with great weather this year as well, but the air show is when the town really starts jumping as evidenced by the hotels and motels with no vacancies and long lines at the resort’s many restaurants.
Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and CEO Melanie Pursel said this week the organization’s members all reported great numbers for air show weekend.
“It was a great success,” she said. “We were out there at the show center all weekend and everyone we spoke with from the vendors and sponsors to the air show guests and event promoters were extremely pleased with the weekend.”
Pursel agreed everything lined up perfectly for what was perhaps one of the biggest air show weekends for the resort.
“The weather was absolutely perfect, and the performers were top notch,” she said. “There was a lot of great energy around the entire event.”
Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Executive Director Susan Jones said the organization had not yet collected all occupancy numbers, but agreed last week’s air show proved to be a special one.
“This past weekend was fabulous,” she said. “The weather was stellar and there were big crowds everywhere. It was an extremely strong weekend for most.”