WILDWOOD — Ten-year-old R.J. Ferracci’s first concert experience was a good one.
“It’s fun,” the boy said as country music singer Kenny Chesney completed his first song during his Wednesday night concert on the Wildwood beach.
Ferracci’s brief summation was echoed by concertgoers, business people and local officials Thursday who said the concert, which drew an estimated 30,000 people to the island on an otherwise quiet Wednesday in June, was a success.
Shawn Norbeck, a Camden County resident and purveyor of cowboy hats, staked out a spot on the corner of Spencer and Ocean avenues, apparently a prime location.
“I’ve sold 400 to 500 hats,” he said as another prospective buyer approached Wednesday during the concert. The hats ranged from $10 to $20 and were among the many Chesney-themed items, including an array of T-shirts, on sale with the singer’s arrival.
Entrepreneur Bill Perrone, of Middle Township, even stood with a cardboard cutout of Chesney, offering passers-by a chance to take a picture with Chesney’s image for $5.
Lori Bradshaw-Roach, a past Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce President and owner of Laura’s Fudge on Wildwood Avenue, said Thursday that business was good all around.
“There was a lot of extra business for a Wednesday in June,” she said, noting that the weekdays are always slower than a summer weekend. “Having it on a Wednesday was a phenomenal idea.”
The concert, part of the American Express Unstaged series, was timed to match the Tuesday release of Chesney’s new album “Welcome to the Fish Bowl.”
Prior to the show, Jonathan Demme, who directed the show for its online audience on YouTube and Vevo, said at first he was unsure of Chesney’s idea to film it on a beach, but grew to love the idea.
“I love Wildwood It’s obviously a great, unspoiled American city,” Demme said.
City officials said that the concert went as smoothly as they could have hoped.
Police Chief Steven Long said just two arrests, both disorderly persons incidents, were connected to the Chesney crowd.
“Everything was seamless to me,” Long said.
The department’s full-time officers and Class II seasonal officers were all working during the concert, with the production company paying for the off-duty officers to work, Long said.
In addition, about 130 private security officers, along with members of the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office and Sheriff’s Department, were on hand staffing the event that covered the beach between Mariner’s Landing and Adventure Pier.
Long said when he last checked 24,200 ticketholders had been scanned into the concert area and he estimated several thousand more fans were outside the fenced concert venue.
“I think it went exactly like we planned it,” Capt. Robert Regalbuto said, adding the last beach concert he remembered here was a Beach Boys concert in the 1990s
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., who appeared briefly on the giant stage prior to the concert’s 8:30 p.m. start, said Thursday that about 20 concertgoers required medical largely due to heat-related issues. The region is under an excessive heat warning this week.
“It went off without nearly any hitches,” Troiano said, adding he had yet to go to sleep following the show.
He city department heads will sit down shortly and have a debriefing session to discuss how things went and what can be done differently for future events.
“The crowds came in extremely well-mannered and they went out extremely well mannered,” he said.
Troiano said the concert, while free, was a boost for local businesses.
“If you have 30,000 people here and each spends $100, you do the math,” he said.
Troiano was, however, disappointed that some businesses charged exorbitant prices for parking, some as high as $75 to $80.
“It’s very, very poor business and it reflects badly on the community,” he said. “The damage that you can do.”
But he credited most lot owners with not overcharging people.
Troiano added he hoped the concert’s success would lead to other beach concerts here.
“I know American Express was extremely please. They said they’ll be back,” he said.
Heter Myers, of PMK-BNC, publicity lead for the American Express Unstaged series, said Thursday that attendance and online viewing figures weren’t in yet, though they may not be released.
Millsboro, Delaware resident Kristy Ferracci, R.J.’s mother, was among the many concertgoers that said they’d be back as well.
“I’d definitely come back for another concert. It’s pretty cool,” Ferracci said, adding she was staying at least one night in a Wildwood motel.
She and her son staked out a place not far from the stage and she occasionally hoisted her son on his back so he could get a better view.
While she enjoyed Wildwood, Chesney was still obviously the main attraction.
“Just him on the beach and his sexy self,” she said with a laugh.
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