Gone are the days when Ocean City emptied out after Labor Day, and vacationers didn't return until Memorial Day rolled around again.
Now Ocean City stays busy in the fall, as more people discover the serenity and crisp, sunny days of autumn by the sea. While the surfers and boogie boarders don their wet suits and embrace the chilly waves, there are alternative activities for those who prefer to stay warm and dry. With so many shows, fairs and races going on, it's difficult to understand why some call this the off-season.
Free car show
Car enthusiasts will be revving up their engines for the Corvettes that will be rolling into town Saturday, Oct. 2. Stop by Northside Park at 127th Street from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a free car show that will feature a variety of 'Vettes from an early-model showroom-condition car to a souped-up customized model.
Then at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, about 200 Corvettes will motor along the boardwalk to 27th Street in an annual parade sponsored by the Freestate Corvette Club Inc. of Catonsville.
The first Corvette rolled off the assembly line in 1953 and into the hearts of club members. It's the only American-made, two-seater sports car still being made, according to club member Charlie Wagner.
At the Wicomico Civic Center in Salisbury, duck decoys and art will be shown Friday, Oct. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 3, at the Chesapeake Wildlife Showcase sponsored by the Ward Museum Wildfowl Art.
An auction of $1.2 million worth of carved ducks starts at 6:30 Friday night and continues until 9 p.m. The bidding continues at 11:30 a.m. Saturday morning with a duck decoy that is expected to bring in bids of about $30,000. The auction winds up at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
There will also be a wildfowl art show and sale with the work of about 200 artists and retailers on display at the Civic Center located at Glen and Civic avenues. The Americana Showcase antique show and the Sportsman and Collector Gun Show will run concurrently with the wildfowl decoy events.
Admission to the show includes a ticket to the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, which has recently opened a "Spirits in the Wood" exhibit. In conjunction with the exhibit, the Kwa-Gulthf Native American tribe from Fort Rupert, British Columbia, will be demonstrating carving, painting, jewelry and button blanket crafts at the museum.
Civic Center show hours are noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 1, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 2 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 3. Tickets are $5, $4 for students and seniors, free for children under 12 and $12.50 for a three-day pass. For information, call the Ward Museum at (410) 742-4988, Ext. 106.
Fishermen will be casting for prizes Oct. 8 and 9 in the Ocean City Mid-Atlantic Surf Anglers Fishing Tournament. All of the slots of the 70 six-person teams are already spoken for, but spectators are invited to stroll the beach and watch the action.
The anglers will be assigned a two-block section of beach along which to fish from 28th Street to the Delaware line. Tournament sessions run from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
While the anglers are fishing for a winner, regional barbershop quartets will be holding their own competition Oct. 9 at the Ocean City Convention Center.
Winners from this regional sing-off will go to an international meet to be held in July in Pittsburgh. Barbershoping is serious stuff, says Mike Miller, president of the mid-Atlantic district of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. When the competition heats up, "directors pull their hair out and throw chairs," he says.
Many of the singing events are open to the public, and tickets will go on sale at the Convention Center Oct. 8. Events include a chorus contest 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning and the Quartet Final and Jamboree Show at 7:30 that evening. Groups will also be participating in sing-alongs at various piano bars around town.
100-mile bike tour
On Oct. 9, the Salisbury State University Bicycle Club is holding its 100-mile bike tour of the Eastern Shore. About 2,500 cyclists are expected for the annual event, which was chosen as one of ZTC the 10 best 100-mile bike tours in the country in the August issue of Bicycling magazine.
A 100-mile ride can sound daunting to those who get pooped after cycling a few miles, but Joseph Gilbert, chairman of the event, says, "It's a state of mind. You build a fear of long distance."
Mr. Gilbert, who pedals 100 to 150 miles per week on his bike, says, "If you pace yourself, it's not too bad. You have to take your time." He said some cyclists do the course in a swift four hours and others take about 10 hours to complete it.
Along the way, there are three stops with refreshments for the body and soul. At the first pause on the Pocomoke River, a string quartet will play Handel's "Water Music"; at the Assateague Island stop, there will be a bluegrass fiddler and banjo player; and at the Adkins Mill Pond break, a brass quintet plays by a pond lined with shady cedar and cypress trees.
For registration information, call the Salisbury State University Bicycle Club at (410) 548-2772.
Those who make it through the 100-mile bike tour on Oct. 9 will still have time to rest up for the Ocean City Seaside 10 Mile Race at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 23. The 10-mile race starts and ends at the Ocean City Convention Center, loops through the resort and even includes a stretch of the boardwalk.
Runners who aren't ready to join the ranks of Boston and New York Marathon champion Bill Rodgers and Olympic medalist Frank Shorter, who will be in town for the big race, can try the 5-kilometer Fun Run.
Those who want to philosophize about fitness can attend a lecture by author Dr. George Sheehan, who will be discussing the physiology, psychology and philosophy of fitness at 7 p.m. Oct. 22. For registration information on race events, call the Ocean City Visitors Center at (800) OC-OCEAN.
Oct. 29 and 30 are the dates of the Bavarian Festival at the Ocean City Convention Center. There will be folk dancing, German oompah bands, singers and performances by a one-man band who also yodels.
The festival will also have the best of the wurst with offerings such as knackwurst, bratwurst and weisswurst along with schnitzel, sauerbraten and goulash soup.
While the Bavarian festivities take place on the upper level of the Convention Center, new this year will be a craft show on the lower level with about 60 vendors displaying items such as jewelry, leather, wood and ceramics.
The Bavarian Festival will be open from 11:30 a.m. to midnight Oct. 29 and 30. Tickets are $3.50 a day and include the craft show. The craft show will be open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 29, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 31. Tickets for only the craft show are $1.
On the light side
Ocean City will be lighting up the town this holiday season with the WinterFest of Lights. It starts Nov. 17 with a dusk lighting ceremony at the Convention Center.
Lighted displays will be placed throughout the resort with focal points at the Convention Center, Northside Park and the inlet. The Convention Center will have lights showing the first two days of the 12 days of Christmas -- a partridge in a pear tree and two turtledoves, in case you were trying to remember. At a cost of $30,000 for the lights of each day of Christmas, it is going to take the town a few years to acquire the complete set, says Alex FauntLeRoy of the Chamber of Commerce.
At Northside Park, there will be a surfing Santa, an animated marlin, toy soldiers and a lighted tunnel. At the inlet, the display will have a nautical theme with mermaids, boats, ships and treasure chests.
After the lights go on outside, dancers will be lighting up the dance floor inside the Convention Center with performances by the Xavier Cugat Orchestra Nov. 19 and the Guy Lombardo Orchestra Nov. 20. The bands will be playing from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets are $16 a person at the Convention Center box office.
Nov. 26 to 28 are the dates for the 11th annual Holiday Shopper's Fair at the Convention Center. About 15,000 people are expected for the show, which attracts about 100 craftsmen from the mid-Atlantic region. Holiday shoppers will be able to view and purchase clothing, jewelry, linens, antiques and glassware. Children can have their picture taken with Santa.
For non-shoppers, there will be a lounge complete with cable television and a cash bar. Free admission to the fair. Show hours are noon to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.