(May 2, 2014) The city gave its final stamp of approval this week to two events for the 2014 season by promoter and frequent town collaborator Bryan Lilley.
The OC Air Show will return for its seventh year on June 14-15, and Lilley’s nonprofit National Air, Sea, and Space Foundation will be bringing in two historic sailing vessels for the entire month of August this year after last year’s successful “tall ship” event.
Lilley said he expects considerable resurgence this year in the air show business, after federal sequestration cuts last year eliminated all military performance teams.
“I’m very excited about the military being back with us,” Lilley said of the Air Force Thunderbirds, who will be performing for the fourth time in Ocean City this year.
“Last year was a very hard year for the industry in general,” Lilley said. “I think the show and the town showed a great deal of resiliency with our ‘all-star, all-civilian’ lineup.”
Although federal funding for military performance teams is only back to 45 percent of its 2012 level, Lilley has secured performances from Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force teams, as well as security assistance from Coast Guard vessels.
“As far as I know, we are the only show being supported by every branch of the military,” Lilley said. “For us to have this level of support is very unique.”
Additionally, the NASSF, which is sponsored by Lilley’s production company, will be bringing two fully-functional replicas of 16th-century sailing vessels into the resort.
El Galeon Anadlucia, fresh off its successful visit last year, will be returning with its sister ship the Nao Victoria for a month-long stay from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1, 2014, at the city’s bayside boardwalk on Chicago Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets.
Such vessels from the golden age of sail are often referred to as “tall ships,” and are major tourist attractions wherever they dock. Further, this year, the Andalucia will be especially prominent after being seen in a national television program.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for us as a result of El Galeon being the featured ship in the upcoming NBC series ‘Crossbones,’” Lilley said.
The pirate drama – starring John Malkovich – will start airing May 30 with the season finale in August, while the ship is in Ocean City. Some sort of weekend pirate festival in the resort is being planned to play off the program, Lilley said, although no details are definitive.
“We’re going to be the only port of call in the northeast while the show is actually airing,” Lilley said.
The city will again be subsidizing the OC Air Show by dedicating $35,000 toward particular operational costs of Lilley’s program. The town used to loan the show $50,000, but require repayment in a revenue-sharing agreement. However, the city never made its money back, and has since started paying a flat rate.
“We weren’t making a profit, and it ended up always cost us $35,000 per year,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “Instead of going through all the effort to reconcile that every year, it became pretty clear over a couple years that it would just cost $35,000.”
“I think that’s where we’ve seen the mature show is going to be financially,” Lilley said.
The OC Air Show receives proceeds from selling tickets into the main viewing area on the beach between 14th and 17th Streets, where it also has food and beverage concessions. Only about 2,000 people buy tickets each year, but an estimated 200,000 watch the show from whatever vantage point available.
“To go out and try to get another event with this impact [would be difficult for the price],” Meehan said.
However, Lilley will be paying the entire $6,000 cost for the town to install a second set of mooring cleats so that the two ships can tie up at Chicago Avenue simultaneously. This is to compensate for Lilley’s use of metered parking spaces along the street as a staging area.
“We’re going to be losing money on those meters that will come close to that amount of money [for the cleats],” Meehan said.