Atlantic City’s ability to handle large-scale crowds will be tested today — perhaps more than ever — as hundreds of thousands of people are expected to pour onto Absecon Island for the Atlantic City Airshow.
For the first time, “Thunder Over the Boardwalk” will take place on a Friday, rather than its traditional midweek date. Ten years ago, when the modern show first took place in the resort, organizers said it should be a midweek event to help boost tourism during slower days in Atlantic City.
Friday became the day this year, however, to accommodate an appearance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jet team, which arrived in the region Wednesday and will be based at the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing in Egg Harbor Township. The Atlantic City Airshow has included a feature performance by either the Thunderbirds or the U.S. Navy Blue Angels each year since its inception.
Joe Kelly, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, which organizes the show, said having it on a Friday will truly test the marketplace and determine what the city can handle. The chamber has asked the Center for Regional and Business Research at Atlantic Cape Community College to complete an economic impact analysis following the show to determine the effect of a Friday show.
Organizers have suggested that this year’s show could attract as many as 1 million people to Absecon Island and Brigantine, although some experts have questioned the crowd estimates. Last year, the Atlantic City Expressway saw a little more than 23,300 cars pass through the Pleasantville toll plaza eastbound between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the day of the airshow. Traffic was heaviest at 9 a.m., when 4,176 vehicles passed through the plaza, amounting to 93 percent of the plaza’s hourly capacity.
The National Weather Service forecast predicts mostly sunny skies with a high of 85 degrees during the show. Any outdoor after-parties, however, might face less favorable weather: Showers and thunderstorms are likely between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. The chance of precipitation is 60 percent.
The show is centered in front of Boardwalk Hall between Mississippi and Florida avenues. That’s where the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team will land and where music and announcements about the show will be made.
The free show can best be viewed from anywhere on Atlantic City’s beaches, but Brigantine and Ventnor are also popular viewing locations. For the first time this year, Ventnor has opted to host several bands and a ninja demonstration today to break up the time between the acts.
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