YEAR IN REVIEW: Festive winter wonderland attracts record-breaking numbers. Penguin Swim raises nearly $15,500 more than anticipated for local hospital. And Ocean City welcomes two new events: Uptown Beach Bash and Komen Race for the Cure. These are some of the year’s top stories:

WINTERFEST OF LIGHTS:

The Winterfest Express made its last trip through the illuminated Northside Park on Jan. 1, 2012, wrapping up the 46-night Winterfest of Lights holiday spectacular.

A record-breaking 107,405 people visited the 127th Street displays, which contained as many as 1 million lights and more than 100 twinkling, shining, glittering and animated scenes. The previous attendance record of 93,937 was set in 2001.

An average of 2,335 people rode the train each night of the 2012 winter wonderland. The overall total was an increase from the 84,230 passengers who took the 12-minute ride the year before when Winterfest of Lights was open for 44 days.

Attendance during the final weekend of the 19th annual event was strong, with 4,697 riders on Dec. 30, 4,251 on New Year’s Eve, and 1,925 passengers on the last night, New Year’s Day.

Not only was overall ridership up, but revenue also increased from the year before. Total revenue generated during the 2011-12 festival was $512,934, an increase from $367,069 garnered during the 2010-11 event.

“I thought everything went smoothly and the response was outstanding from people who came,” Tom Shuster, director of the Ocean City Recreation & Parks Department, said at the conclusion of the 19th annual Winterfest of Lights festival.

Winterfest of Lights has received many accolades over the years. In 2011, it was again listed among the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association. The list includes the best events for group travel in the United States and Canada. The festival has also been voted “Maryland’s Finest Holiday Tradition” by Maryland Life Magazine.

In 2008, the Ocean City attraction was ranked No. 1 on the Professional Travel Guide Editor’s Top 10 of the nation’s largest and best holiday lights displays. And in 2006, Winterfest of Lights was No. 2 on “America Online City Guide’s Top 11 Lighting Displays.” The Disney-MGM Studios display in Orlando, Fla. topped the list.

The 20th annual Winterfest of Lights event runs nightly through Jan. 1, 2013. To celebrate Winterfest of Lights’ 20th anniversary, there will be a fireworks display at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Hours of operation are 5:30-9:30 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5:30-10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The cost to ride the train is $5 for those 12 years of age and older. Children 11 and younger ride for free.

For more information, call 410-250-0125 or visit www.ococean.com.

 

PENGUIN SWIM:

Every New Year’s Day for the last 18 years, hundreds of residents and visitors have sprinted into the ocean as part of Atlantic General Hospital’s annual Penguin Swim.

An estimated 1,000 “penguins” donned everything from bathing suits to superhero costumes as they plunged into the nearly 50-degree ocean at 91st Street on Jan. 1, 2012.

The fundraising goal for 2012 was $71,500; participants helped to raise approximately $87,000.

“Thank you all for coming out and spending your New Year’s Day with us,” Michael Franklin, Atlantic General Hospital president and CEO, said after the 2012 event. “It’s a special time for all of us. It’s a big community, family time together, and we appreciate you taking a little bit of time and being crazy enough to jump in the ocean. Thank you for making it another great event.”

Several factors contributed to the overwhelming number of participants. The weather, at nearly 60 degrees and sunny, was milder than during past events, and the water was warmer. The swim took place on a Sunday, which helped draw a record amount of spectators and “penguins.” Also, for the first time, early registration was made available to participants.

The Penguin Swim, an annual anniversary celebration in May and the fall golf classic, held each September, are Atlantic General Hospital’s three main fundraisers. Since its inception, the Penguin Swim has raised more than $600,000 (net proceeds) for AGH.

The 2013 event will take place Tuesday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m.

 

OC AIR SHOW:

With an air show, a car show and three sports tournaments taking place at the same time, Ocean City had little room to spare and even less available parking in early June. The biggest draw by far was the fifth annual OC Air Show, held June 9-10. Organizers expected the event to keep spectators on the edge of their seats with thrilling performances, and it did not disappoint.

“It was a great line-up, with the nation’s best military and civilian acts. The show was diverse and it kept people entertained,” said Cathy Bassett, spokeswoman for B. Lilley LLC Productions, the company that produced the show. “The fifth anniversary year was one of the smoothest years yet, and the weather was perfect.”

More than a dozen military and civilian performers took to the sky each day, from noon to 4 p.m. The fifth anniversary show featured pilots and teams performing various forms of acrobatic and extreme flying. The two-day lineup, headlined by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, showcased the Black Diamond Jet Team, U.S. Navy Seals Leap Frogs and the Screaming Eagles from the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division parachute jump teams, a U.S. Navy F-18 Hornet, a C-5M Super Galaxy and a host of aerobatic performers.

According to the city’s Demoflush statistics, which estimate population based on wastewater usage, there were 260,794 people in town during the 2011 event, which also took place the second weekend in June.

The estimated population during the 2012 Air Show weekend was 267,564, a 2.6 percent increase from the same time last year. It was the highest ever for the second weekend in June.

The show was centered on the beach at 16th Street, where there were premium viewing areas set up for a fee, though the performances could be seen from the beach and along the Boardwalk for free.

The weekend also included a number of beach parties, happy hours and other gatherings at local businesses, where the public had the opportunity to meet the performers.

The U.S. Navy Blue Angles have already signed on to headline the 2013 Air Show, scheduled for June 8-9. Additional performers will be announced in the fall and in the weeks leading up to the event.

 

UPTOWN BEACH BASH:

Despite some rain, organizers were pleased with the number of people who turned out for the inaugural Uptown Beach Bash, held Aug. 24-26, in Ocean City.

“I thought it exceeded all of my expectations,” said Brian Stoehr, co-owner of Spark Productions LLC, with Brad Hoffman and Dave Bafford.

The North Ocean City Business Alliance, a group created by north-end business owners to lobby city government for more equitable geographic distribution of tourism promotion dollars, joined with Spark Productions to bring this new festival to the beach. The group is working to draw attention to that area in a fun and creative way, thus the Uptown Beach Bash was born. On June 18, the Ocean City Council approved $22,135 for the first-ever event.

The three-day event kicked off Aug. 24, with the “Uptown Beach Bash Paddle Board Regatta and Bay Party” at BJ’s on the Water on 75th Street. The event consisted of children and adult paddleboard races and lessons.

Rain or shine, the “Guinness World Record Bikini Parade” was scheduled to take place Aug. 25. Hoffman said there was no denying the windy and rainy weather conditions were a factor.

Two weeks earlier, 1,085 women, ranging in age from 4 to 70, set the new world record for the Largest Bikini Parade, according to the World Record Academy. The parade was in China’s Huludao City, where they marched for more than a mile in bikinis. Panama City Fla., held the previous record; 450 women walked a mile through the city in March. As of parade day, the record was still 450 as Guinness officials were awaiting documentation to verify the Chinese effort.

The group, which ranged from infants to 70-year-old women in bikinis, did not break the standing world record, as 325 bikini-clad ladies walked single-file past a velvet rope to be counted. Ladies walked on the beach from 91st to 118th Street.

Although the record was not broken, Hoffman called the effort a success.

The Uptown Beach Bash wrapped up Aug. 16, at Northside Park on 125th Street, with the “Local Palooza” art and music festival. The 10 musical acts were originally going to perform outside, but were moved inside the facility because of flooding. There were also activities for children, inflatable bounce houses and BMX shows provided by Monster Energy team riders. Hoffman said 750 guests visited the park throughout the day.

Proceeds and donations collected over the weekend will benefitted three organizations: Relay for Life, Diakonia and the Surfrider Foundation.

 

INAUGURAL KOMEN RACE:

Approximately 3,500 runners and walkers participated in the inaugural Komen Maryland Ocean City Race for the Cure® on April 22, which included a 5k timed competitive run, a 5k recreational run (not timed), a 5k walk and 1-mile fun walk. The festivities kicked off with the “Parade of Pink” survivor recognition walk around the Race Village, followed by a group photograph.

According to Brittany Fowler, communications and development coordinator for the Maryland affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, $335,057 was raised during the event.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout despite the rain,” Fowler said.  “Cancer doesn’t stop for inclement weather, and I think people want to show their own resilience.”

Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised will go to local programs that offer breast health services, from screening and treatment to support. The remaining 25 percent will be sent to Komen National to fund research grants at institutions across the country to support Komen for the Cure’s mission to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.

To date, Komen Maryland has provided more than $35 million dollars to support the fight against breast cancer — more than $2.5 million has been awarded to grantees on the Eastern Shore. The programs supported by Komen Maryland grants aid women and men undergoing treatment, as well as provide support to their families.

 

PINK RIBBON CLASSIC:

The annual Pink Ribbon Classic at the Beach Series, which, in 2012 provided eight activities designed to draw attention to breast cancer while raising money for the American Cancer Society, had another record-breaking year.

Nancy Dofflemyer, Judy Schoellkopf and members of the Executive Women’s Golf Association established the Classic in 1996. Since its inception, the series has raised nearly $1.5 million.

In 2011, the Pink Ribbon Classic brought in approximately $186,000 (net). It was the seventh consecutive year that more than $100,000 was donated to the organization.

During a wrap-up meeting earlier this month, it was announced that $269,659 had been raised during 2012 Classic events.

“There was such a dynamic committee that was totally committed and went above and beyond for the cause,” said Laura Martin, senior community manager for the South Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society.

The event that brought in the most money was the second annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k event on Oct. 20. More than 1,000 walkers and about 280 runners hit the Boardwalk.

“As chairperson for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, I am again overwhelmed by the community’s generosity and support of this event. We had more people, more teams and well exceeded our goal [of $125,000] by raising $159,777 this year,” said race Chairwoman Beverly Furst. “As part of the Pink Ribbon Classic, we were able to raise more money for research and programs and awareness for the American Cancer Society.”

The Poor Girls Open fishing tournament takes place in August, while the other Pink Ribbon Classic events are spread out between September and October, known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with one activity in November.

“The community was supportive and the enthusiasm carried through the entire series,” Martin said. “The people in Wor-cester County really rally around causes.”

While some of the money raised through the Pink Ribbon Classic will be earmarked for national breast cancer research, the remainder will stay on the Eastern Shore, where it will be used for education projects, patient programs and services.

 

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