The Fourth on hump day is no picnic -- Gazette.Net



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Besides power outages and storms, Maryland businesses had to deal with another challenge this week: A federal holiday right smack dab in the middle of the week.

The last time July 4 fell on a Wednesday was 2007. Since then, it has been on or near a weekend to allow for a multiday celebration.

For tourism officials and related businesses, the midweek holiday creates some uncertainty.

“You don’t have that one big, huge holiday weekend,” Donna Abbott, tourism director for Ocean City, said Thursday. “It’s spread out over the week. ... Some people are here for the whole week, some for just one or two nights. Others came yesterday and will stay for a long weekend.”

On Wednesday, officials estimated that 332,000 people were in Ocean City. That was some 21,000 more than Independence Day in 2007.

The spread-out week likely is helping traffic patterns there, without a big rush of cars, she said. So far this summer, crowds have seemed better than last year, which was a “very good year,” Abbott said.

“We’re optimistic that this year will be better,” she said.

Before last weekend’s storm hit, about 850,000 Maryland residents planned to travel 50 miles or more from home this week, about 5 percent more than a year ago, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. But the storm might have thrown a monkey wrench into the travel plans for those in suburban Maryland, said AAA spokesman John B. Townsend II.

The midweek holiday could have had some impact on bookings this week at the Doubletree Hotel Bethesda, said general manager Rodney Bernard. But it’s hard to tell, because the hotel still is seeing a boost from last week’s storm and power outages, he said.

“I originally expected us to be at about 50 percent occupancy in the middle of this week,” Bernard said. But on Tuesday the hotel was closer to 80 percent occupied, he said.

Wednesday’s July Fourth holiday didn’t help part-time specialty catering business Carbecue secure any events in suburban Maryland or the Washington, D.C., region that day, said Jeff Korns. The Potomac resident started the business in 2004 with partner Mike Jewell, who now operates a division in Vermont.

“The Fourth of July always works better if it’s close to a weekend,” Korns said.

But Carbecue, which features grills operated out of renovated Volkswagen Beetles, hasn’t been hurt by the midweek holiday in Vermont, said Jewell, who moved to Vermont. He had a couple of events on Wednesday there.

“Business is good here in Vermont,” Jewell said. “We have had to turn down some jobs.”

kshay@gazette.net