Berlin’s party packs Main Street
BERLIN– After postponing the party on March 29 due to heavy rains and thunderstorms, last Saturday’s Coolest Small Town Celebration take two was met with picture-perfect weather.
Thousands flocked to Berlin to see Budget Travel’s 2014 “America’s Coolest Small Town” in person.
“We’re absolutely delighted with the turnout,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams. “The fact that we postponed (the party) not only brought us wonderful, blessed weather, but I think it also increased the amount of publicity and awareness about the fact that we were doing this. So it’s a win-win all around.”
A parade featuring area youth organizations and students ran through the town beginning at 1 p.m. Ocean City Pipes and Drums also took part in the festivities.
“It’s a pleasure to be here and we’re glad we were invited,” said Pat Harmon, the band’s manager. “We’re having a lot of fun and the turnout is fantastic. There’s a very large – and loud – crowd and everybody seems to be having a ball.”
Food vendors were set up along the downtown corridor along with several area merchants and nonprofits. Live music was offered during the celebration, and the town’s open beverage container laws were suspended with Burley Oak Brewing Company hosting a beer garden just outside of the Atlantic Hotel.
“What a great day, beautiful weather and an awesome, awesome turnout,” said Burley Oak owner Bryan Brushmiller. “I see a lot of locals and a lot of people coming in to check out Berlin.”
Street performers, including Berlin resident Jim Stark, brought their own version of local color to the affair.
“It’s a nice turnout and it certainly beats last week’s rainfest,” said Stark, who has been making marionettes for more than 50 years. “Now that the people are here they’ll get a better view of the town and we might have a thunderous growth spurt.”
Rafael Correa, a West Ocean City resident, was on hand with his wife to celebrate.
“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s great to see the whole town and all of the businesses pull together to make this happen, and Gee and the government folks really rallied everyone. It’s an amazing result and a place that we all enjoy, and now the whole world knows it’s America’s coolest small town.”
Many area businesses were already seeing marked increases in sales.
“This is the biggest crowd I think we’ve ever had,” said Jesse Turner, owner of Berlin Shoe Box. “It drew a lot of people in town and we’ve had a lot of people in here looking today.”
“The turnout is fantastic – even bigger than the Fiddler’s Convention was last year,” said Debbie Sutton, a cashier at Town Center Antiques. “I think it’s good for business. I’ve met a lot of people who have never been to Berlin before that live in this area. I think it’s even bigger than anyone expected.”
Berlin Economic and Community Development Director Michael Day agreed with Williams’ decision to move the party back two weeks from its original date.
“It was a last-minute decision and it was absolutely brilliant that he called that,” he said. “Now here we are with the biggest crowd we’ve probably ever had. Who can complain about that?”
“The older I get the more I understand that things are meant to be,” Williams said. “The bad weather was meant to be so that we could be here for today, and kids of all ages – regardless if they’re 4 or 94 – can come out here and have a little fun.”