OCEAN CITY — City merchants are banking on Indian Summer Weekend’s fireworks to add some color to what so far has been a lackluster shoulder season.
When the commission added fireworks to this 25-year weekend festival in 2009, some merchants grumbled about spending their mercantile fees in the fall instead of the busy summer.
But two years later, this marketing promotion has proved a big success, Boardwalk Merchants Association President Wes Kazmarck said.
“Nine out of 10 merchants are happy about it,” he said. “The show is extremely comparable to the Fourth of July fireworks. I bet it will look like a summer night on the Boardwalk.”
The city’s Fall Block Party on Saturday attracts crowds for the 450 vendors who take over eight blocks of Asbury Avenue downtown. Sunday features a sidewalk sale on the avenue along with more concerts and Boardwalk sales.
New this year is a Boardwalk Music Festival with concerts starting 7 p.m. today at the Music Pier.
“It’s one of the Top 10 nights of the year for us,” said Cal Corvaia, owner of the Ocean City Coffee Co. He expects his shop at 928 Boardwalk to be busy with customers buying pumpkin-spiced coffee and hot chocolate.
“Accommodations are nearly full. It is traditionally one of the strongest weekends of the year,” said Michele Gillian, director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Gillian said the fireworks give people more incentive to stay on the island — and no time too soon. Merchants said business has been off since Hurricane Irene forced a countywide evacuation Aug. 28. Rainy weekends in September have hampered business since Labor Day, they said.
“After the hurricane, everyone left town,” said Walla, the owner of Custom T’s on the Ninth Street Boardwalk who goes by one name. He was selling T-shirts outside his shop for the bargain-basement price of 2 for $5 in hopes of clearing his inventory.
“After this weekend, that’s it,” he said. “We’re done for the season. Hopefully, it’s going to be pretty good.”
The city’s Tourism Commission, the Boardwalk Merchants Association and several Boardwalk businesses are paying the estimated $45,000 cost of the fireworks show that will be held 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Some people vacation in Ocean City in the fall when the prices are better and the crowds smaller.
Joseph and Louise Skurkey, of Conyngham, Pa., are spending their second-straight fall vacation in Ocean City this week. On Thursday, they sat on a Boardwalk bench reading and watching the sunlight reflect off the Atlantic Ocean. They plan to take full advantage of the city’s weekend events.
“I thought the fireworks last year were really great,” he said.
“Last year it was wall-to-wall people,” city spokesman Mark Soifer said. “The rides will be open at Playland’s Castaway Cove and Gillian’s Wonderland Pier. There will be a lot to do.”
Soifer said the Tourism Commission agreed the fireworks were a good investment.
“The next move is to get people here during the wintertime,” he said.
If you go
Indian Summer Weekend in Ocean City starts Friday with a three-day Boardwalk Music Festival at the Music Pier.
On Saturday, the city will host the Fall Block Party, featuring 450 crafters on Asbury Avenue between Sixth and 14th streets. Stages will be set up at the Music Pier and on the Boardwalk at Sixth and Ninth streets.
The Ocean City Tabernacle will host pony rides from 1 to 4 p.m. and a concert by the Atlantic Brass Band will be held at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door or $13 in advance by calling 609-399-1915.
At 9:30 p.m. the city will host a Boardwalk fireworks show by barge off the Ninth Street beach. Afterward, the Bubba Mac Band will host a reunion concert at the Music Pier.
Boardwalk merchants will offer table sales all weekend. Asbury Avenue merchants will have a sidewalk sale on Sunday with more concerts at the Music Pier starting at 2 p.m.
Parking on the island is free at city lots and meters.
Contact Michael Miller: