Sunbathers need only open their eyes to enjoy this year's Labor Day festivities at Ocean City. The biggest performances of the last summer holiday weekend will be played out in the skies over the ocean as a collection of stunt planes perform aerobatic air shows for visitors Saturday and next Sunday.
Seven historic planes will put on an act filled with rolls and loops and precision flying, and 15 parachutists will form patterns in the sky as they aim for a tiny 100- by 100-foot clearing on the beach near Caroline Street.
In the early evening, the show will continue with the Sea Chanters, a chorus of the United States Navy Band, performing in concert at 5:45 p.m. next Sunday, and a laser light show at 9 p.m. on the beach both Saturday and Sunday.
The air shows represent a major change from past Labor Day festivities. Noticeably missing this year is the Saltwater Festival, a huge festival under big-top tents that brought craft fairs, lots of good food and family-style entertainment to the Convention Center. Ocean City officials simply felt it was staged too close to Sunfest, another festival that will be held less than three weeks after Labor Day weekend.
Ocean City officials also feel the air shows mesh better with what the resort's expected 200,000 visitors like to do most over Labor Day: catch the last hot rays of summer.
"People have gone home, gotten their kids ready for school and come back for one last weekend," said Martha Clements, public relations director for the city. "They want to relax because they know everything goes crazy" when school starts.
And the air shows lets them do that.
Four shows, scheduled for 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday near Caroline Street, should catch the eyes of sunbathers. The performances will begin with the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team of 15 parachutists, who will make several jumps onto a small, designated block of beach sand.
Last year, the Golden Knights, who perform more than 100 air shows each year and are known for their accuracy, jumped onto the ramp at the Convention Center, and the year before they landed on a barge in the bay. This is the first year they will jump on the beach, Ms. Clements said.
An aerobatic stunt show will follow immediately, beginning with the daring maneuvers of stunt pilots Jim Reed, in a red and white Pitts Special called Superhoney, and John Greenwood in Glory Bound, a 1979 Pitts S2A Special.
Mr. Reed's 16-minute routine consists of 360-degree loops, barrel rolls and other stunts. Mr. Greenwood's specialties are low-level aerobatic acts and flying upside down.
The Six of Diamond Flight Team, with their flamboyantly colored restored planes, thundering radial engines and precision movements, will perform the air show finale.
A laser light show will brighten the night sky Saturday and next Sunday, beginning at 9 p.m. The show of dancing, colorful lights will be synchronized to music.
Past visitors to Ocean City may remember the laser light show performed on the 68-foot castle of sand last summer.
"It was chilling, it was so good," recalls Ms. Clements, who hopes for a repeat performance.
This year, the light show will be on the beach. It is created by laser lights bounced off a multitude of mirrors. The show will take place near Caroline Street, and visitors will look south toward the boardwalk and pier, where the mirrors will be positioned, to watch the light display.
On Sunday, the U.S. Navy Band's chorus, the Sea Chanters, will perform a free concert between 5:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. on the beach between Caroline Street and North Division Street. There will be no seating, so viewers may want to bring their own blankets or beach chairs for the performance.
Beyond the beach, a flea market will run throughout the three-day weekend at the Convention Center, but there will be no major entertainer to perform in the evening as in past years. Ocean City was simply unable to secure a popular entertainer, Ms. Clements said.
Also being held this week is the 33rd annual White Marlin Tournament, staged by the Ocean City Marlin Club. The tourney will begin weighing in fish at Harbor Island at 14th Street and the bay Thursday evening.