CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article cited a date for Wine Fest 2020. The event says it is still discussing the date but, as of Jan. 9, the event is slated for Sept. 25-26.
Ocean City’s Sunfest will change dates in 2020 to avoid coinciding with H2Oi, a large gathering of car enthusiasts who have caused havoc in the town for many years, the town announced Tuesday.
Sunfest, a centerpiece of the shoulder season, had traditionally been held the third weekend in September after Labor Day. After 46 years, the event will change dates to Oct. 1-4 because in 2020 leap year would push the event into the same weekend as the unsanctioned and unofficial car enthusiast gathering.
The release cites substantial traffic concerns, public safety and event staffing challenges if the events took place at the same time.
The downward spiral of H2Oi: From car show to social media-driven ‘havoc’ in Ocean City
In 2019, the unofficial H2Oi car event weekend, held Sept. 26-29, netted 1,500 citations, 121 arrests and numerous videos depicting police and crowd clashes.
“We have a responsibility to preserve our signature event,” said Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan. “However, our biggest responsibility is the safety of our residents and visitors. Based on public safety and staffing needs, we believe this change is beneficial to all residents and visitors of Ocean City.”
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The car event is a social media-driven gathering with no official coordination after the official event was canceled in 2017 and moved to New Jersey in 2018. Despite the official event no longer being in the region, droves of car enthusiasts continued to flock to the Maryland resort. It previously coincided with the Wine Fest.
Those attending wine fest also took to social media to express displeasure and shock at the noise and chaos they encountered while expecting a quiet offseason beach weekend, enjoying wine on the beach and spending money for hotels, restaurants and more. Wine Fest 2020 is currently scheduled for Sept. 25-26, with the event company still in talks with the town about the date.
The town did not name the car gathering in the press release.
Both town and car enthusiasts said in October that what happened was unacceptable and shouldn’t happen again. But a clear path forward was not established. Ocean City and the state previously established laws to help curb behavior before the 2019 event, yet no bills for the 2020 General Assembly session are on the horizon. The session opens Jan. 8.
Sunfest, held in the Ocean City Inlet, features arts and craft vendors, food and free live entertainment on two stages, along with ticketed musical acts.
“There is still a lot to love about being in Ocean City in October. I think vendors and guests will be pleasantly surprised by the extension of the season and a fresh new date for one of Ocean City’s largest events.”
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