Mark Soifer, Ocean City’s legendary Public Relations Director, is retiring after a stellar career of 45 years. Mark’s retirement at the end of 2016 will truly signify the end of an era. A soft-spoken man with an easy smile, Mark and his lovely wife Toby recently took time out of their busy schedules to sit down and talk with me.
When you first meet Mark Soifer, it’s hard to imagine that this small, quiet man is the powerhouse who has propelled Ocean City to the forefront of New Jersey resort towns. In fact, Ocean City, the Jersey Shore’s premier family resort, was just voted Best Beach in America in a poll taken by Coastal Living magazine. Not bad for a town that doesn’t serve alcohol.
Forty-five years is a long time. How did it all begin? Well, Ocean City needed public relations work done for an art show. Mark successfully provided that PR and it led to him being offered the position of Public Relations Director in 1971. It’s been onward and upward ever since. In fact, Mark Soifer was voted Ocean City’s Citizen of the Decade in 2013.
Mark is famous. . . or infamous, as the case may be. . . in Ocean City for the many special events he’s created over the years. Many know him from the annual Doo Dah Parade, a supreme celebration of humor that takes some of the pain out of tax day weekend. Others know him for Ocean City’s First Night celebration or the Block Parties or the baby event Pamper Scamper. Mark was also instrumental in creating The Trail of Two Cities, a run/walk event between Ocean City and the neighboring town of Somers Point.
We talked for a bit about the Doo Dah Parade. It began in Pitman, N.J., originally intended as a spoof of the Rose Parade in Pasadena. It then moved to Ocean City and grew into the fun event it is today. The highlight of the Doo Dah Parade is the Pieasco, based on the old Soupy Sales TV show where people got smashed in the face with a shaving cream pie. It’s a fun ending to a fun parade. Mark told me the reason they used shaving cream pies instead of bakery pies is that Soupy’s famous guests, like Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle, wore expensive suits and it was much easier getting shaving cream out of the clothing.
The Doo Dah Parade has seen many famous guests over the years, including Carol Channing, Mickey Rooney, Meadowlark Lemon and Soupy Sales himself. About ten or 11 years ago, Mark got a call from Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue asking about putting dogs in the Doo Dah Parade. He said yes and, since that day, hundreds of long-eared, waddling hounds have brought up the rear of the parade as part of the organization’s BoardWaddle.
This year, the Doo Dah Parade will be extra special because there are two Grand Marshals. And while the Grand Marshal usually rides in a car, Mark and his family will have their very own float to celebrate his last parade. And to make it even more memorable, Mark will be going to the dogs with an honor escort by Flash the Wonder Dog, Tri-State’s resident artist hound.
Obviously, Mark Soifer could have retired any time over the last 20 years. Why now? “It’s time.” Comfortable that there are good people to take over, Mark’s going home to write. A prolific author, Mark Soifer has nine volumes of self-published poetry currently in circulation, along with over 2,500 columns and other writings, such as the adventures of Martin Z. Mollusk, one of his first creations for Ocean City. Mark also writes songs for his own group, the Wind Chimes Band. Retirement may bring many things for Mark Soifer but boredom will not be one of them.
After 45 years of service to his beloved Ocean City, how would Mark Soifer like to be remembered? He smiled and told me that Ocean City’s already taken care of that. The small patch of open space across from Ocean City’s City Hall is now known as Mark Park, a fitting tribute to a life dedicated to the shore town. There’s no sign yet but there will be, so look for it next time you’re in OC. Sit a spell. Mark would like that.