Courtesy of Delmarva Now
Starting in 2010, an unofficial branch-off of the popular “H2OI” also known as H2O International began their yearly takeover of Ocean City, Maryland taking place usually near the end of summer. What started out as a pleasant way for Volkswagen, Acura, and other car owners to show off their most prized possessions, quickly escalated into unwanted chaos that many locals believe is ruining the city.
The traffic violations go back as far as 2010, but the police only made fifty-three arrests in the years 2010 to 2015 when the event was still officially held in Ocean City. That number drastically increased to more than 2,700 during H2OI 2017, the first year that the city no longer sponsored the event being there. During this weekend law enforcement made over 1,200 traffic stops and seventy-eight arrests, more than had taken place in the five year stretch leading up to its cancellation.
Now what could be the cause for this spike in violent and chaotic behavior now that the event is no longer officially sponsored? Certainly, there is the perspective that the participants of H2OI were upset by the fact that they were no longer welcomed with open arms; but is that really what is propelling all the mayhem that takes place during that weekend in the summer? For starters, the H2OI-goers are forced to plan out and schedule their meet-up online, which is significantly harder for law enforcement to track. This leads to confusion in the city on when they will arrive and can leave locals unprepared for the madness that will take on the next couple days.
The H2OI of Summer 2019 was the worst that the city had ever seen, despite imposing special event zones on Coastal Highway and Philadelphia Avenue that would raise ticket prices for traffic violations. It was absolute chaos in the streets, even drawing comparison to the Ferguson and Baltimore riots. There were multiple pedestrian crashes, gun and drug bust, and even an assault on a horse. The weekend was truly unlike anything the city had ever seen. Social media was flooded with videos capturing the absolute anarchy that inhabited the streets, everything from videos of a hit and run right next to Anthony’s on thirty-fourth street, to a car ripping down Coastal Highway doing donuts while simultaneously setting off fireworks into the night sky.
It cannot even be put into words what the people of Ocean City felt after that weekend. The streets were lined with tire tracks of all kinds, almost completely unrecognizable from just days before. It looked as if the Daytona 500 had just been in town. People were outraged and demanded that the town of Ocean City do something to protect their city before things could get any worse because they were not sure how much worse things could get. Mayor Rick Meehan released a written statement in 2019 that said, “What took place this past weekend in Ocean City can never happen again. This group came to town with the sole purpose to raise havoc in our community, to disrupt our lives and defy law enforcement.”
Senior Bryce Goble is one of the many teenagers who showed out for the event this summer. He could only describe the atmosphere as “chaotic, electrifying, and something unlike he’d never seen.” Goble believes that the city should bring in reinforcements for the shows return this fall but should not try to stop it completely because as he puts it, the event was “fun.”
On March 4 and 10, a bill is being sent through the Senate and House of Representatives that would allow Ocean City to raise the fines for “exhibition driving,” which is aggressive driving that includes spinning tires, doing donuts, etc., when a special event zone is put in place. Mayor Meehan stated that “the goal is to back this event down to a level that we could one day even support. We can’t control who comes to Ocean City, everyone is welcome. We just ask that you be respectful and abide our laws.”
One thing is certain, no matter who you ask everyone just wants what is best for the community, and that does not necessarily mean getting rid of H2OI for good. If these people want to continue coming to the town of Ocean City, they will have to learn to be respectful of the town’s ordinances or pay the consequences.