Beach officials banking on boat races to draw crowds

September 06, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

OCEAN CITY -- Despite less than beach-perfect weather, an estimated 200,000 people poured into the resort this holiday weekend for a summer finale.

"Labor Day weekend is typically the third largest weekend of the year," said Martha O. Clements, a city tourism spokeswoman. "We have a lively number of people here." Even so, she said the numbers were about 90,000 less than a typical Labor Day weekend. She attributed the smaller numbers to the holiday falling later than usual and to classes starting at several schools and colleges last week.

"With schools going back a week early, a lot of people don't want to have to pack up again and come down here," said Perry Pillas, owner of Perry's T-Shirts on the Boardwalk at First Street.

Ocean City officials were betting on the U.S. Offshore Power Boat Grand Prix at noon today to draw crowds. The race takes place on the ocean from about 90th Street to South Second Street.

"It's bringing in a lot of people who have never been here before," Ms. Clements said.

Ocean City officials hope the offshore powerboat race, in which competitors are vying for a $100,000 purse, becomes an annual event.

"The powerboat races are bringing a lot of excitement to town," said Mary Tawney, an administrator for the Ocean City Hotel-Motel Restaurant Association Inc. "It looks like a good weekend."

Although some motels were full, many others had rooms available. Along both Baltimore Avenue and the Coastal Highway, many motel signs flashed "Vacancy."

State police in Salisbury and Easton reported light-to-moderate traffic on eastbound U.S. 50 to Ocean City. No traffic tie-ups or accidents were reported.

About 3,000 vehicles an hour were crossing the eastbound lanes of the Bay Bridge yesterday afternoon.

"Traffic is a little bit heavy," said Cpl. Paul Jones of the Maryland Tolls Facilities. "It's not like it is during vacation season, but if it gets any worse, we will have to run two-way traffic [on westbound lanes]."

The weekend weather forecast was bleak. Scattered showers and thunderstorms were predicted for Sunday and Monday. There was a 50 percent chance of showers yesterday.

"It's a cloudy day so many people are heading for the boardwalk or the stores," said Lynn Wockenfuss, a member of the family that operates the Wockenfuss candy stores in Baltimore and Ocean City. "It's good for business, but this isn't one of the biggest weekends for us."

Donald and Fran Bradley of Elizabethtown, Pa., were among the growing throngs of people walking the Boardwalk and shopping.

"We plan to do a little shopping, go on a bike ride, watch the [powerboat] races and go on a cruise," said Ms. Bradley, a merchandiser.

Mike Klewin and Ed Wunsch, students at the University of Maryland College Park, opted for the beach. "The weather isn't up to par, but I'm optimistic it will get better," Mr. Klewin said.

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