Almost nothing is normal in 2020, but last weekend, Ocean City hosted an event that has been a part of the town for quite some time. ArtX, now in its third year, aims to promote artistic expression. Even during a pandemic, the event was a shining success.
Ocean City ArtX 2020
The free festival took place at Northside Park on August 22 and 23. In total, 28 vendors set up throughout the park, showing off and selling their unique photos, sculptures, paintings, ceramics, drawings, and more.
Approximately 4,000 people attended the event over two days, which is down 50% from 2019. However, Special Events Director Frank Miller is pleased with the turnout. “In 2020, we never know what to expect,” Miller said. “However, the 50% figure is a trend we are noticing across the board.”
While a group of 4,000 people may seem alarming, Miller explained that people flowed throughout Northside Park and distanced from each other. “Northside Park is 58 acres in size. Vendors set up far apart from each other, and people continued to move around. There were never any noticeable large crowds,” Miller said.
When advertising ArtX, Ocean City officials made clear that social distancing and masks were required due to Covid-19.
In addition to the vendors, the event offered interactive activities for people of all ages. Children were able to tie-dye t-shirts, make kites, illustrate frisbees, and paint.
For those looking to advance their skills or try something new, the Art League of Ocean City hosted workshops. Professional artists demonstrated their techniques and assisted amateurs with painting. Creations included summer beach scenes, horseshoe crabs, and flowers.
Rina Thaler, Executive Director of the Art League of Ocean City, was excited to provide a creative experience during these unprecedented times. “The town coordinated this event as a way to show how important the arts are. The arts are the fabric of this town. People were so happy to have something to do,” Thaler said.
Food and beverage vendors were also present for the event.
Despite the roaring success of the festival, indoor ArtX spaces attracted far fewer visitors than Northside Park. Miller noted that most people are still cautious when it comes to entering enclosed spaces.
Earlier this summer, the town advertised that live musicians would take to the stage at 8 p.m. on August 22. Due to restrictions from the Maryland Department of Health, no large concert occurred. This directive also prevents the now-canceled Sunfest from having headliners. Instead, local musicians spread out across the park, adding to the artistic ambiance of the festival.
ArtX vs. Sunfest
Miller emphasized that this event was worth having, and that the vendors who attended, did quite well. On the flip side, he believes that Sunfest would be a completely different story. “Sunfest is a totally different event, which is why it simply was not possible to do it this year. Both events have vendors, but Northside Park is huge. There is room for the vendors to social distance, and there are fewer vendors for ArtX than for Sunfest,” Miller said. “Sunfest has 300 vendors, a smaller footprint of space, and enclosed tents. Enclosed spaces are frowned upon by health officials, and so are large concerts.”
Even though visitors and businesses will have to wait until 2021 for Sunfest, SunLITE is still a possibility for the first weekend in October. Miller pointed out that the Ocean City Mayor and Council will make the final call, but that business interest is the driving indicator. “We need interest and excitement from local businesses. We have just under 40 days to bring this together, and marketing this is a crazy idea in itself. However, if the businesses want this, then we will do it,” Miller explained.
The Ocean City Council will meet for a work session on September 1 and discuss SunLITE.