By Donald Wittkowski
John Walton is already cranking up the hype machine.
With his typical enthusiasm, he’s promising that “thousands and thousands” of spectators and “dozens of paparazzi” will be there on May 25 to take in one of Ocean City’s wackiest annual traditions, the Business Persons Plunge.
Entering its 15th year, the spectacle features nattily attired business people blithely marching into the surf to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” to officially “open” the ocean for the summer tourism season during Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s a nationally recognized tradition,” Walton told members of City Council at their meeting Thursday night while teasing the plunge with a salesman-like flair.
Walton, a local real estate agent who leads the well-dressed masses into the ocean each year, walked into the Council Chambers carrying the same weather-beaten briefcase he totes into the waves for the plunge.
“I’ll be taking this with me again in the water this year,” he told a reporter as he picked up the briefcase.
The May 25 plunge is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. on the beach next to the Ocean City Music Pier at Moorlyn Terrace and the Boardwalk. It will be held rain or shine.
“Well, everybody … it’s that time again,” Walton told City Council.
During the 2017 plunge, Walton wore a $1,300 black suit, white shirt, cranberry-colored tie and sunglasses. In celebration, he triumphantly waved an American flag while posing for pictures with other business people as they emerged, soaking wet, from the ocean.
Year after year, the Business Persons Plunge generates tons of free publicity and media coverage for Ocean City – just as Walton intended when he conceived of the event in 2004.
“This is one of the craziest, goofy, zany and most triumphant events that you’ll ever see. We really wanted to come up with something that was different than anything else on the island,” Walton explained during last year’s plunge.
The festivities will also include Mayor Jay Gillian and other city dignitaries using a large wooden key to “unlock” the beaches for the all-important summer season.
The Business Persons Plunge serves as an unorthodox good luck charm to usher in a strong tourism season for Ocean City’s business community. By Memorial Day, the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce is usually able to predict whether the summer season will be robust based on early beach tag sales as well as bookings for hotels, motels and rental properties.
To register for the Business Persons Plunge, go online to www.ocnj.us/bizplunge or call (609) 399-6111 for more information.