Town of Dewey officials want to change the town's image and have tasked the marketing committee to lead the way.
During the regularly scheduled commissioner's meeting July 11, town commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the committee working with Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President Carol Everhart to come up with ideas to attract more families during the months of May and June – when college and high school students typically take over the town's houses and hotels.
Mayor Diane Hanson said the issue is that a lot of people who rent to young people during those two months do so because there isn't any other pool to choose from; and that the group can cause problems, from trashing properties to disrupting neighbors.
“People will continue to rent to June graduates if there's no other audience to rent the property,” she said.
Hanson said events could be oriented toward dog owners, families and sports enthusiasts. She quickly suggested specials centered around Mother's Day and the town's Arts Fest, Father's Day and a golf tournament, mutt weekend or grandparents' week.
“The idea is to fill the town with families or people who are oriented towards dogs and sports,” she said. “Anything that younger kids would not be interested in, is the idea.”
Everhart said she would be willing to work with the committee to give them ideas and direction on how to move forward. She said May and June are months were all the local towns are trying to fill the gap before the summer season starts. Clubs are a good resource at that time of year, Everhart said.
She also said any event the town wanted to include in the annual booklet that comes out in January has to be submitted by October.
Everhart said not to be discouraged if events don't immediately draw the crowd the town is looking for.
“Any new event or promotion takes at least two or three years to gel,” she said.
Hanson said if the town is going to do something like this, there should be a commitment to it for four or five years.
“We can't be discouraged if we don't get a big response the first year,” she said.
David King, a Swedes Street resident, suggested thinking of the problem from a holistic point of view. He said there's an ocean with an enormous beach, and all those activities, and then there's the bay, with its wildlife and those activities.
“If I were Donald Trump or Walt Disney, I would say theme park,” said King.
Families love theme parks, said King. They go have a great time, he said, and it is something they look forward to for a whole lifetime.
He said the town could sell three- or five-day, or one-week passes, with one-stop shopping, restaurant specials, pre-ordered foods and other specials.
“A lot of smart people have figured out how this works,” he said. “I think it would be really exciting, and that we could find some people who would work on this.”
Commissioner Courtney Reardon said King's idea was interesting, but overwhelming.
King added there were three things the town should immediately do to help with the image – clean up the trash, fix the on-street parking problem, and close down the drunk and disorderly behavior.
“We will never be a family-friendly destination as long as that crap is going on,” said King.
Resident Dale Cooke, a former commissioner and member of the Dewey Beach Lions Club, said he had approached club officials about working with the town to put on a Father's Day weekend golf tournament. The club, said Cooke, indicated they would be willing to do discuss it as a yearly event.