An unofficial event that is expected to bring thousands of car enthusiasts to Ocean City is set to begin Tuesday and the town’s mayor has a message: Don’t travel to the area if you don’t have to.
“We pride ourselves on being a coastal community that everyone can enjoy year-round, but unfortunately, we are asking everyone to please exercise caution before deciding to visit Ocean City this weekend,” Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said in a news release Monday.
Meehan vowed to end the event, known as H2oi, last year after it "placed our town, as well as our citizens and visitors, under siege and in danger.”
In anticipation of the event this year, the mayor said enhanced legislation was passed to establish a “Special Event Zone” allowing the town to lower speed limits and increase fines and penalties. And for the first time, motorists can be arrested within the zone for certain violations.
Videos surfaced last year of attendees gathering in rowdy crowds, racing down streets and lobbing rocks at officers.
Here’s what you need to know about the event:
What is H2oi?
It’s a gathering that is not permitted — or sanctioned — by Ocean City, centered on enthusiasts of lowered and modified Volkswagens and Audis. It also attracts a variety of other lowered and otherwise modified vehicles.
Three years ago, the official H20i car show moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey. But enthusiasts keep coming back to Ocean City by the thousands. And the event has long caused problems with locals.
The Atlantic City show bills itself as a “laid back” event for Volkswagen and Audi owners.
When is it supposed to take place?
Sept. 22-27, according to Meehan.
What happened last year?
Videos and photos posted on social media during the unofficial event showed fireworks being set off from medians and cars doing donuts in the streets. The images also showed people racing and lining the streets.
Ocean City Police also worked for more than an hour to break up a gathering of several hundred people as people hurled bottles and rocks toward officers.
Although the number of arrests from the event in 2019 isn’t clear, the year before police said they made about 80 arrests.
What has the town done to help curb the disruptions of the event?
Similar to last year, Meehan has established a “Special Event Zone” that lowers speed limits and increases fines and penalties within the area.
But this year, the Maryland legislature added exhibition driving to the Special Event Zone Bill. That means that the first time, officers will be able to arrest people inside the zone for certain motor vehicle violations.
Alternate traffic patterns to help control congestion will be in place, Meehan said, as well as a heavy police presence.
I was planning a trip to Ocean City this weekend. Should I still go?
The mayor said the event is expected to bring excessive noise, extreme traffic delays and increased law enforcement presence.
Latest Eastern Shore
He’s even encouraging residents to avoid traveling on Coastal Highway because of the expected heavy traffic. Meehan also said that those seeking a “family-friendly” weekend experience should plan for another time.