Those of you who don’t know are welcome to swing by Northside Park or check out the photos of the annual Ocean City Christmas Parade, but you also might just take my word for it: Ocean City is really into Christmas. The people and institutions enjoy it as an event as much as as a holiday.
I have a working theory about this:
Mostly, we love having guests. But just like having guests in your home for a massive party, the enthusiasm and house-pride is tempered by the stress of trying to make everyone feel at home. Similarly, during the summer, it is a pleasure to have visitors, but it is really during the off season that Ocean City shines. It’s a simple question of volume, we can pay more attention to more people off season, and we really get to show off.
Although the hotel rooms are less expensive, there is a sense of exclusivity that comes with the winter. People can be better served and tend to have an excellent time despite the reduced crowds. Beyond all of this is the opportunity for locals to do “touristy” things. Dropping the hipster pretense that there is a barrier between things that tourists do that locals don’t like to do is a relief once the weather breaks (or, I guess, unbreaks).
Add to that the nostalgia of those who have been wintering in Ocean City for generations, and it isn’t difficult to see the appeal of the movement to return to decorating Ocean City’s Downtown for Christmas in a big way. With that in mind, several locals have initiated an effort to return to the days when the Downtown was dressed to the nines for Christmas.
Revisiting the past
The Downtown Association of Ocean City has been working toward the goal of bringing some more focus to Downtown Ocean City over the winter holidays. Although the arcades and several of the restaurants and shops stay open all year, Downtown has a reputation for being a summertime place. So aligned with the beach is the downtown that people assume there is closed. Which is too bad, because there are plenty of things to do, especially on the weekends. The Downtown Association folks have been working for years to bring more and better Christmas decorations to the neighborhood as a way of reminding people that it still is there and still is an attraction.
The difficulty is that some of the things that used to be done in the area (such as a massive Christmas light display on the beach) are impractical because of the weather. The reason that the Downtown doesn’t have these major displays anymore is because of storms that had blown them down or sent in the ocean to take the displays out to sea. The new plan is to Light Up Downtown in a way that is more weather-resistant.
Endgame is near and far
Each year the Downtown Association of Ocean City raises a little more money and can purchase more decorations. According to Tiffany Phillips, who runs the association, the city has committed to storing and erecting any lights the association buys. Her vision is eventually to have the entire Downtown all lit up, from the beach to the bay. It is a goal they get a little closer to with each event. The expectation is it will be something that is improved upon every year, which might be the first step toward a year-round revival in the seaside downtown.
If you are interested in volunteering with the association or in donating toward their cause, visit www.downtownassociation.net/