Sponsored By

2023 Oceans Calling: Harmonizing the Highs, the Lows and the Future of Ocean City’s Newest Musical Extravaganza

Oceans Calling 2023 Overview

Captain Chris Mizeur on the Angler was anchored off the beach.

As most OceanCity.com followers will know, this past weekend’s Oceans Calling three-day (September 29th to October 1st) music festival was a very large event in Ocean City, particularly when one considers that nearly 50,000 people came for the event and were concentrated in the southern end of Ocean City.   The OC Air Show attracts a lot of visitors, but it is spread out and is held in June of each year. Approximately 50,000 tickets were sold for each day of this 3 day event.  

The OceanCity.com Assessment of Oceans Calling 2023

Below are some of our findings based on attending each of the three days, speaking with festival attendees, monitoring Face Book comments, and getting feedback from several business owners inside and outside of the festival footprint.

Who Attended?

This event was a mix of so many things; seasoned festival people, attendees who had never been to a music festival and many who had been to a few festivals. Most people were from out of town, as one would expect. While many attendees were from other parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, there were also many coming from all over the country to attend this first-ever event called Oceans Calling in Ocean City, Maryland. Last year’s event was cancelled due to stormy weather.  There were also many Ocean City area residents attending, too. There were people of all ages. And even kids and infants!!

What Did Attendees Think of the Inaugural Oceans Calling?

Overall, almost all attendees loved this event. Sure, the weather was misting on the first day (Friday) and raining at times on Saturday, but the sun came out on Sunday and made for a grand finale of this three-day event that most will remember for a long time.

 

The Highs

The music!

The music, music, music!! Dozens of bands. It’s why all were attending and the continuous flow of such quality entertainment was impressive. If one did not favor a certain music group, they could walk over to one of the other stages to listen to other performers. National names such as Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Alanis Morisette, The Lumineers, and so many more performed for this sold-out crowd.

The Festival Set-Up

The festival set up – Oceans Calling stated they had substantial experience in running these large music events and they were correct! The three stages were nicely located to allow proper distancing from each other and yet not require a long trek to any of them. The set up with the ocean and inlet backdrops, the wide beach, and nearby Boardwalk, brought together all the best attributes that make Ocean City so special to so many. This layout allowed thousands to flow from event to event.

The Festival Amenities

The event provided hydration stations, ample restroom facilities (with flushing toilets, not just your regular porta potties), charging stations for cell phones, lockers, ADA viewing area, free rides at the Jolly Roger Amusements on the OC Pier, a first aid tent, and more.

Food and drink

There were a wide assortment of both food and drink options at this event. Some of the prices may have appeared high but not so unaffordable when you think of prices at other large events – think NFL football and MLB baseball games. A Kona Big Wave beer was $16 per can, but the can was twenty-five ounces. Some commented there could have been a wider beer selection than was provided.

There was an amazing selection of food choices near the music venues, including tacos and nachos from Taco Girl stand, corndogs and potato wedges from Wookie dogs, and lobster rolls and fried clam strips/rolls. The lines at these food and drink stands were often long, but for the most part moved fairly well.

Participation of Boardwalk businesses

The involvement of the many businesses located south of North Division Street was crucial to the success of this first year event. The original idea of a self-contained festival with a fence running down the boardwalk in front of these boardwalk businesses would have been a tragedy for all. This southern section of the boardwalk contains many of the iconic businesses that Ocean City regular visitors come to expect: Dolle’s Candyland, Fisher’s Popcorn, Dumsers Dairyland ice cream, Dough Roller pizza, Candy Kitchen, and more. In addition, allowing festival goers also visit some of the well know downtown bars on/just off the boardwalk enhanced the festival experience. The Purple Moose Saloon, The Cork Bar and Bearded Clam are only three bars that have a strong following to regular OC visitors. And for those that ventured to the Inlet area, but in the festival footprint, got to visit the new The Wedge Bar with some of the best water views in Ocean City; the ocean, inlet, bay and Assategue State Park.

In fact, if not for these eateries and bar establishments being in the festival footprint, one can only guess how much longer the food and drink lines would have been at this three-day event. Their inclusion into the festival footprint allowed attendees to be able to have the full Ocean City experience. And the lack of a perimeter fence running along the east side of the boardwalk allowed for much improved pedestrian flow throughout the event.

Entrance and re-entrance gates 

At any large event, getting into the venue can be a frustrating and sometimes a frightening experience with large crowds. However, this was not the case at this Oceans Calling event. There were two entrance/exit locations; North Division Street and South Division Street. For the most part, they seemed to work very well as there were numerous gates to enter. Separating the entrance lines for attendees with bags and without any bags sped things up, too. Attendees often arrived around noon to see all of the events, while others arrived throughout the day to see the later music performances. It made for a fairly free flowing entrance for most. The ease of re-entry allowed attendees to also visit the nearby downtown businesses and eateries outside of the event footprint.

Security

The event sponsors and the Town of Ocean City did a great job in making sure the event was a safe venue. Security personnel within and outside of the event footprint were visible and friendly. The OCPD horses were a great sight to view and take pictures for many.
Cleanliness – for the most part, the event was well maintained. Trash bags were regularly changed along the Boardwalk area. Volunteers were often seen picking up the empty aluminum cans for recycling. In the later evening hours, when attendance was peaking, there were some overflowing trash cans by the event venues as well as cans left on the beach area. The public restrooms had few complaints and often favorable comments on their cleanliness.

The Lows

Bus Service

Almost anyone that attended the event either experienced or heard of the challenges with getting to and from the event via its bus service. There were stories of waiting an hour or longer and some attendees just giving up and hiring a ride-share option. In fairness, to the Town of Ocean City and Oceans Calling, they recognized this was going to be a major issue from the beginning and applied as many resources as possible to address. It appeared that most of these bus concerns were heard on the first day, and as is often human nature, people made adjustments. Those that didn’t wish to wait for buses, simply decided to walk the extra distance, bike to the inlet area, use ride share options, or drive to the event and pay for parking. For the most part, festival attendees recognized the best efforts of all was being applied for transporting such a large crowd by bus and many appreciated these efforts, too.

Cell phone reception –

As the event became more crowded there was a noticeable drop off in cell phone reception and transmission at the inlet area. This was true for both Verizon and AT&T customers. Attendees wishing to contact their family and/or friends to meet up or transmit pictures or a video to others not in attendance were left in limbo. One option for those who figured it out, was to walk back to the boardwalk and away from crowd to get reception on their phones. Many just waited until after the event to transmit pictures and videos after leaving the event grounds. Of course, many just scrapped the cell phones and just enjoyed the music.

Mixed Feedback

Bicycle Parking –

It was great to have accommodations close to the event (at 1st Street on the beach area) to park and lock one’s bikes. Solid platforms on the beach were provided to place this fencing upon. These were actually not bike racks, but metal fencing. Many bikers simply locked their bikes against this fencing rather than just placing their front wheels between the fence bars. So, it was not as efficient as first envisioned and reduced space for others. Once this bike fencing was full, others just locked their bikes to the nearby boardwalk benches. This being said, it was great to see so many bikers. Biking seemed like the best transportation method to getting to the event, especially if one was several miles away. However, it would have been better for all if such bikers, who were often heading back to their residences after the event in the dark, to use bike lights for improved visibility. Many did bike home along the Boardwalk, that did have lighting.

Conclusion

The above comments and findings do not cover the spectrum of items that will be discussed for next year’s Oceans Calling event by the event sponsors and Town of Ocean City. But as seen at the event, both Oceans Calling and the Town of Ocean City made some adjustments to improve the event.

Overall, from an attendee perspective and also from an economic perspective, the event was very successful. It was evident that the eateries, bars, and nearby hotels did well. Were there some businesses that did not benefit? Possibly so. But generally, for this time of year, many businesses are going to limited off-season hours, while some are preparing to close until next spring. The Oceans Calling event provided a major financial benefit to many – both for employees and employees, and particularly in the downtown area. This year’s Ocean City music festival will be unforgettable to many attendees.

Here are some select comments from downtown businesses and attendees:

Wendy Dibuo of The Cork Bar (in festival footprint) and Crawl Street Saloon (outside of footprint): “After much preparation by the promoters, the Town of Ocean City and the merchants, I would give the Oceans Calling event an A rating. … I feel it was a Win! Win!”

Nick Tekmen, owner of Gateway Hotel – “Great event, just like to thank the Town of Ocean City for their hard work. Also we had the nicest clients for this event.”

David Rossbach – from FBIt was outstanding! Ran extremely well. Rode the bike down all 3 days. Lines moved, bathrooms were clean. Bands were on/off at exact times listed. Definitely can’t wait for next year! Weezer and Dirty Heads were the highlight for me!”

Kristen Krause – from FB“Amazing experience! We drove down from Vermont. Took the boat ferry and back. Had the best time on the boardwalk. Food was great, bathrooms were clean, the free water stations … AMAZING!”

Dana Paterra – from FB – “Well done OC! We parked in west OC park and ride and walked so no issues with transportation. We felt safe, enjoyed the boardwalk and additional food and drink options loved beach, the crowd although huge was civil, and the lineup was incredible. Looking forward to next year.”

Dave Grove – from FB – Unbelievable experience, clean and everyone was pleasant. Our whole crew had a blast and looking forward to the 2024 festival.”

Patty Gross Dundore- from FB – “LOVED it! I have never been so proud of our town! It was just amazing.”

Oceans Calling 2024

Stay tuned for details on Oceans Calling 2024.  The Town of Ocean City is about to sign a multi-year contract so you will see this music festival coming back again.  Rumors are they are considering a two-weekend, back to back event with a different music genre on each weekend.

Glenn Irwin
Glenn Irwin
Glenn “retired” in March, 2023 after almost 23 years as Executive Director of the Ocean City Development Corporation (OCDC). The OCDC is a nonprofit organization that is charged with revitalizing downtown Ocean City. Glenn continues to be involved in several community organizations. Glenn lives in Ocean City and regularly rides throughout the downtown area and boardwalk for exercise and pleasure several times per week, often year-round,. Glenn is our OC Bike Guy and often live streams his downtown rides for oceancity.com as well as takes pictures.

Plan Your Trip
OceanCity.com Recommends

Nick's MIni Golf and Ropes Course, Ocean City, MD

Follow Oceancity.com

208,023FansLike
29,939FollowersFollow
1,910FollowersFollow
8,752FollowersFollow
795SubscribersSubscribe
Days Inn, Howard Johnson in Ocean City, MD.  Boardwalk Hotel Group Properties

More articles

Booking.com

2 COMMENTS

  1. I wrote an email to the Mayor and the City Council to tell them that they did a great job! I did not attend for fear that it was going to be a crazy event and suck but I was wrong after reading all the reviews. They hit this out of the park! Congratulations to OC and the event people involved. You made this happen! Not many events can say that so good job! Fix what was broken and leave what worked alone. Get some good feedback and work on that as a goal.. I cannot congratulate you enough, proud to see all the reviews!

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here