By MADDY VITALE
With the return of favorite events and a couple of new ones, Ocean City promises a year filled with all that it is known for – family-friendly entertainment.
While spring seems far away now, with the start to 2022 being a bit snowy, in just four months — on May 14 — the popular Spring Block Party will return after two cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And in the fall of 2022, there will be the newest attraction — a dog parade on the Boardwalk along with the Humane Society of Ocean City’s Howl-O-Ween Parade, both on Oct. 22.
The first dog parade, this past October, was such a hit that officials decided to bring it back. People and their pooches enjoyed a stroll on the Boardwalk, many of whom were in Halloween costumes.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, spoke Saturday about the importance of these key attractions for the resort.
“The events bring thousands of people to Ocean City, giving guests the opportunity to enjoy the beach, Boardwalk, bay and businesses,” she said.
And some of the events in the lineup are familiar. They are a staple attraction year after year.
“Ocean City is known throughout the region for its events, and we are all so fortunate to be able to experience them,” Gillian noted.
The beginning of the year started with a bang — literally — with fireworks over the ocean. While the night was foggy, people who attended the First Night celebration, which featured activities for all ages, enjoyed the crescendo to the evening.
First Night celebrated its 29th year this year. While it was canceled last year due to gathering restrictions amid the pandemic, the city hosted it this year with numerous safety protocols in place, from hand sanitizers to crowd control.
Mayor Jay Gillian reflected on the importance of the activities offered throughout the year for visitors and residents, especially the longstanding shows and events that families have enjoyed for generations.
“Special events have been a big tradition in Ocean City,” the mayor said Saturday. “It brings families and friends together.”
On Monday, Jan. 17, the city will host the Martin Luther King Jr. Ceremony, which brings the community together to honor Dr. King’s legacy. In prior years, the ceremony was held in the high school’s Bill and Nancy Hughes Performing Arts Center, but this year it will be at the Music Pier beginning at noon.
Come spring, Girls Weekend will take over — at least from April 1 to April 3. The OC Con Comic Book and Memorabilia Show is scheduled for April 2.
One of the favorite events over the years is the Doo Dah Parade, which will be on April 9 this year. In addition to the parade, there will be a host of basset hounds and their owners, of course, strolling down the boards.
To call the Mr. Mature America Pageant zany may be an understatement. Reigning Mr. Mature Jack Merritt has held the title since 2019, due to the pandemic leading to postponements. But this year, on April 9 after the Doo Dah Parade, the Mr. Mature pageant will be back and top off the day of sheer goofy fun.
The pandemic has impacted the way some events are held. The Great Egg Hunts on April 9 and April 16 will follow the same new format implemented last year. Instead of the children going to the beach to pick from hundreds of colored plastic eggs, they will stop by participating Boardwalk stores in their search for eggs and treats.
The Spring Block Party is usually held on the first week of May. However, city officials announced that because Mother’s Day is May 8, the block party will be the following week.
Ocean City’s boat parade and house decorating contest known as Night in Venice is scheduled for Saturday, July 23. Whether on boat or on land, tourists and residents have been making the event a staple in their traditions for years, officials say.
For anyone who needs an excuse to show off their adorable baby in costumes, the best opportunity may be the Baby Parade. It is said to be the longest running baby parade in the nation. This year, it will return for the 112th time, on Thursday, Aug. 11.
Fall events include the Ocean City Airport Festival and Parachute Pyrotechnic Show on Sept. 17, followed by the Boardwalk Aerobatic Air Show on Sept. 18.
Like the Spring Block Party, the Fall Block Party is a major event, which brings thousands of people to the resort. It is scheduled for Oct. 8. The day will be capped off with fireworks scheduled for 9 p.m. that evening.
So, if anyone is looking for things to do in Ocean City throughout the year, their calendars will likely fill up quickly with all of the city and Chamber-sponsored events planned.
For more information, visit ocnj.us or the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce website at oceancityvacation.com