The U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute team and four F-16 Falcon Fighting jets from the New Jersey National Guard 177th Fighter wing kicked off the 32-act lineup for the 10th Atlantic City Airshow today.
An up-close glimpse of the huge fighter jets and pink plumes of smoke in the wake of the Golden Knights parachute jumpers were before the crowd packing the Boardwalk, beaches and water off Atlantic City.
Shady spots were mostly claimed by people who arrived as early as 8 a.m. to ensure they would avoid the sun.
Traffic clogged major arteries to Atlantic City before the show started at 10 a.m.
To help alleviate that, the city is offering parking for $20 at Bader Field and free jitney shuttles to the beach. Accessible via Atlantic City Expressway exit 2, Bader is on Albany Avenue between the bridge and West End Avenue.
Last year's show saw the busiest hour at the Expressway's Pleasantville toll plaza eastbound come at 9 a.m. At that point, the plaza was at 93 percent capacity of the total traffic it can handle each hour.
As the airshow builds up to its featured act – a performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds at 3 p.m. – premium viewing areas are starting to fill to capacity.
Dozens of people are standing shoulder to shoulder under the shaded overhangs of the casinos. But so far, most people have said the crowds aren’t so intense that they deter from the fun.
Lee and Harriet Bricker, of Harrisburg, Pa., camped out in chairs on the Boardwalk near Boardwalk Hall, each holding a rain umbrella for shade. The couple arrived in Atlantic City yesterday morning on a bus trip and stayed overnight in Trump Plaza.
The trip marks the first time that the Brickers have been to Atlantic City in 50 years.
“This is just so much fun. It’s absolutely lovely. It’s crowded, but you can still move around,” Harriet Bricker said. “We’d never even heard about the airshow before we saw the bus trip. We came in last night and walked the Boardwalk and gambled. Couldn’t ask for anything better.”
The couple said they had been to Atlantic City years ago but never had a reason to come back until they heard about the airshow. After finding a seat at 9:30 a.m., the couple planned to stay on the Boardwalk for the entire show.
“I will tell you one thing. I’ve been watching the people go back since we sat down, and the crowd going by just keeps getting thicker and thicker,” Lee Bricker said.
There’s no question that the Atlantic City Airshow is more crowded than it’s been in years past. Lines to get into restaurants, order a slice of pizza, grab a cup of coffee, and even to use the bathroom have mounted as the day has progressed.
The wait to get into the 24 Central Café in Trump Plaza was at least 35 people long by 1:30 p.m. The line to get a slice of Molto Pizza near Texas Avenue stretched well out of the store and onto the Boardwalk.
Bugalow Restaurant and Lounge on the Boardwalk near California Avenue was doing especially well with its lunch crowd, manager John Davis said.
The restaurant opened seven months ago, making this the first time the staff has worked through an airshow. All of the more than 30 tables outside were filled by 12:30 p.m., and the wait to sit at the restaurant surrounded by palm trees and cream-colored canopies was an hour long.
“I’m very happy with the business we’re seeing. We’ll take a look over the next couple of days to see how we do,” Davis said. “Hopefully people will decide to stay through the weekend.”