By Logan Dubel
With over a foot of snow dumped on Ocean City, Maryland just a few weeks ago, you are not alone if the thought of the vibrant sun and sand seems light years ahead. However, relaxation and summer fun is in sight as plans get underway for the highly anticipated Jellyfish Festival.
Tentatively set for June 4-5, the all-local downtown event promises to excite visitors with live music, extreme sports, craft beer, and a festival shopping village. The festival is located at the south end of the Boardwalk right off North Division Street. The unique event, promoted by Brad Hoffman and Live Wire Media & Events, is now entering its fourth year in the resort town.
“At the core of the Jellyfish Festival, we value endless activities and a good time for all,” Hoffman said. “I envision our event as one that people do not just stroll through, but as a welcoming and immersive atmosphere where they prop up a chair in the sand, relax, and take it all in.”
Hoffman, an Ocean City Native, offers a different angle to the special events landscape, bringing four decades of lived experience in the town to the table.
“I had always dreamed of bringing a festival tied to the ocean and the beach to the town I grew up in,” he added.
A key component of the event is music, and while the official band lineup remains in the works, Hoffman plans to enlist bands that consistently capture the true sound of the sand and appeal to audiences of all ages, but particularly middle-aged visitors. Specific genres of interest include reggae rock and tunes with a “SoCal vibe.” A complete lineup is expected by mid-March.
Another essential element is craft beer, which was first incorporated into the festival last year in a ground-breaking event. Jellyfish now partners with Shore Craft Beer Fest, which falls on the Saturday afternoon of Jellyfish weekend and engages an even wider audience.
“We had to postpone our Love on Tap event, so we are thrilled to be bringing the event to the beach during the Jellyfish Festival. Nothing beats great music and all you care to drink local craft beer on the sand with the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop,” said Ann McGinnis Hillyer, CEO of OceanCity.com, a proud sponsor of the Jellyfish festival. “This is a celebration of Ocean City, and we are thrilled to bring so many local craft brewers to the beach so you can see why Ocean City is the best place for your next beercation!”
The 2021 beer festival featured 25 different beverages from more than a dozen local breweries, and those numbers will likely grow as the event returns this summer.
Additionally, Jellyfish plans to continue expanding its shopping area, dubbed Vendor Village, where local merchants set up and engage with the thousands of people that pass by. Most importantly, this shopping area attracts people strolling along the Boardwalk. In the future, Hoffman seeks to add more local and regional artists to this area to provide them with an additional outlet to sell their work.
In just a few years, Hoffman and his team have forged numerous alliances that help make Jellyfish quite distinguishable from the several other events that fill the Ocean City calendar. From full-blown cornhole and ultimate frisbee tournaments, beach fitness challenges, and freestyle motocross, there’s no shortage of things to do. Most supreme among those partnerships is a successful working relationship with the Town of Ocean City, which has been unwavering in its support for Hoffman over the past few years.
Organizers believe that the early summer date will be the perfect time for Jellyfish, as plenty of families will be in town, creating the ideal summer kickoff and festival atmosphere. In 2021, the Jellyfish Festival was placed later on the calendar for Labor Day weekend, as pandemic concerns still loomed in the early summer. As of now, Covid-19 metrics appear to be on the decline.
Matching the extreme sports element of the Jellyfish festival, Ocean City is also planning a Professional Bull Riding event for the same weekend with details to come over the next few months.
While plans went off without a hitch last year, Hoffman is also more attracted to June because his company is also responsible for the production of Ocean City Jeep Week. By holding the events one weekend after another, his loyal staff had little time to recuperate and prepare between the two.
New for 2022, attendees will need tickets to enter the official festival scene, but Hoffman promises a reasonable and affordable price. Tickets will be available in advance online or along the Boardwalk. However, tickets will not ever be required to enter Vendor Village. In terms of attendees, he hopes for three to four thousand ticket holders, with up to 20,000 people passing through the shopping village.
“For our 2022 festival, as we enter our fourth year, and I have listened to feedback, I feel more prepared than ever to meet the needs and desires of Ocean City residents and visitors at our festival,” Hoffman explained. “We’ve begun to tighten up our operations, and I want our festival to continue to grow and gain support organically so that it evolves into something we all are proud of. We’re going to leave everything out on the sand!”