Big party at the beach Large crowds are expected for Ocean City's Springfest

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ocean City will usher in its tourist season this week with its second annual Springfest, a party that will stretch from bay to oceanfront and half way up this 10-mile island.

Springfest '92 will get under way Thursday when dozens of classic cars -- from the Fords of the '20s to the street machines of the '60s -- drive down the Boardwalk, carrying Mayor Fish Powell and members of the City Council. The parade of rare, exotic and colorful cars will start at 9:30 a.m. on 13th Street and end at the Inlet where the four-day festival will officially open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Then the fun really begins with almost continuous live entertainment under one big top, an arts and crafts show with 128 vendors under another two huge tents, plenty of food and a host of street performers filling in the gaps with acts along the beach and Boardwalk.

While most of the activities will take place under tents at the Inlet parking lot, other events are scattered around town.

Springfest is patterned after the successful fall Sunfest. On the eve of last year's Springfest, organizers worried it would flop. But when an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 visitors strolled through the tents the future of this spring bash was solidified.

This year, the number of people clamoring to take part in the scheduled events should be enough alone to make organizers breathe easily about the festival's chances for success.

More than 400 custom cars and street rods are expected to take part in Cruisin' Ocean City, which involves four days of riding around town to various malls so people can view the cars. The event recalls the good ole' days when young people "had no particular place to go and no particular thing to do -- just show off their cars," says Cruisin' organizer Jack Hennen.

The event is expected to attract more than 20 car clubs from as far away as Georgia, Ohio and New Jersey, to Ocean City, doubling the number of cars that participated last year, Mr. Hennen said.

Car owners will use the Convention Center grounds as their main base of operation, giving the public an opportunity to browse the parking lot for a close-up of the classic cars souped up with fabulous paint jobs, dazzling chrome and exotic interiors.

Throughout the weekend at the Convention Center parking lot, the clubs will organize a series of zany games reminiscent of the '50s cruisin' night life, including the "Dairy Queen Car Hop" in which contestants will race with a tray full of cups.

The cars' big cruise will be Saturday at 11 a.m. when all 400-plus vehicles are expected to roll down Coastal Highway to the Inlet and back again to the Convention Center.

Festival-goers can also enjoy a display of about 20 antique trucks at Ocean City Texaco at 12th Street and Philadelphia Avenue from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. May 3. Owned by members of the Delmarva Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society, the trucks in the show will include the oldest tow truck still in operation in Maryland and a tractor-trailer painted with a mural of an early scene of Salisbury.

At the Antique Truck Show, visitors can also take part in games that spin-off of the jobs commonly performed at service stations, said Jack Wood, owner of Ocean City Texaco. Wood will award appropriate prizes -- quarts of oil, for instance -- to winners.

For water lovers, there will be the Springfest Boat Show at Shantytown in West Ocean City, where more than 100 late-model boats will be on display.

Perhaps one of the most eye-catching events, for those who stop to look skyward over the weekend, will be the acrobatic performances of more than 125 stunt kites on the beach near Caroline Street.

The Mid-Atlantic Stunt Kite Championships will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, not with a display of kites, but with a more daring sky act when the Eastern Shore Sky Divers leap from an airplane and land on the flying field on the beach near Caroline Street.

Master kite fliers from as far away as California and Miami have registered to compete in the Stunt Kite Championship Saturday and Sunday.

But there should be plenty of room for beginners. Billy Jones of The Kite Loft in Ocean City, who is organizing the competition, said local novice and intermediate kite fliers can sign-up at The Kite Loft before the event begins Saturday.

The festival also has a line-up of entertainers designed to please almost every musical taste, from nostalgic rock 'n' roll to country, to jazz, to folk and Cajun classics. Concerts are scheduled at the 2,000-seat entertainment pavilion at the Inlet from 11:30 a.m. Thursday until the festival's conclusion at 6 p.m. Sunday.

SH-BOOM will start the music with lively rock 'n' roll from the '50s and the '60s and will reappear six more times through Sunday.

Clinton Gregory will take the stage Thursday at 8 p.m. and will include in his repertoire his latest country hit, "Play Ruby Play."

Great Plains, a country-rock band whose members have toured with Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Jones and other Nashville greats, will perform Friday at 5:30 p.m., followed at 8 p.m. by vocalist Paulette Carlson.

The kids will enjoy Parker Playhouse's Saturday morning production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" at 10:30, which will kick off a full day of entertainment in the pavilion.

Tom Wopat, a star of the old TV show "Dukes of Hazzard," will perform Saturday at 2 p.m. Wopat, who has also performed in Broadway shows, will bring his vocal talents, including his current hit "Back to the Well" to Springfest.

Rob Grill and the Grass Roots, a band catapulted to super-star status in the '60s and '70s with such hits as "Temptation Eyes" and "Two Divided by Love," will entertain the crowd Saturday evening at 8.

Cajun music lovers can listen to the sounds of Louisiana legend Jo-El Sonnier Sunday afternoon at 1:30, while John Sebastian, former lyricist with The Lovin' Spoonful, caps off the concert schedule Sunday with a performance starting at 3:30 p.m.

The pavilion will also be the scene for several theatrical performances. ImagiMIME will perform at 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday, followed on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. by O.C. Mac Seniors Revue and Friday at 2 p.m. by Theatrifollies . . . Olde-Time Vaudeville Cabaret, featuring a lively mixture of music, clowning, comedy and dance.

Springfest will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and LTC Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 3. Admission is free. For more information, call (800) OC-OCEAN.

Entertainment schedule

Thursday:

11:30 a.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. SH-BOOOM

1 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ImagiMIME

2:30 p.m... .. .. .. . Seniors Broadway revue

4 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . SH-BOOM

8 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Clinton Gregory

Friday:

11:30 a.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .SH-BOOM

1 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ImagiMime

2 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Vaudeville show

3 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..SH-BOOM

5:30 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. ...Great Plains

8 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Paulette Carlson

Saturday:

10:30 a.m... .. .. .. .. .. .Parker Playhouse

Noon.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ... SH-BOOM

2 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Tom Wopat

4 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. U.S. Army

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Volunteers Band

5:30 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..SH-BOOM

8 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .Grass Roots

Sunday:

10:30 a.m... .. .. .. .. .. ..Volunteers Band

11:30 a.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .SH-BOOM

1:30 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Jo-El Sonnier

3:30 p.m... .. .. .. .. .. .. .John Sebastian

Getting there

Because of the expected crowds, visitors are advised to travel by bus. Ocean City, Springfest's sponsor, has implemented a town-wide, ride-all-day fare that will enable festival-goers to get on and off as often as they want for $1. Buses will travel from the Delaware line to the Inlet. Park & Ride locations will be at the following sites:

* Francis Scott Key Hotel, Golf Course Road and Route 50, West Ocean City.

* First Presbyterian Church, 14th Street and Coastal Highway, Ocean City.

* Ocean City Convention Center, 40th Street and Coastal Highway.

* Northside Park, 125th Street.

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