Mike Vaccaro, of Staten Island, N.Y., accomplished what he thought was impossible Sunday afternoon at the Orion Music + More festival when he crossed paths with Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo.
Trujillo and bandmate Kirk Hammett stopped by the beach at Michigan Avenue in Atlantic City, where they spent about 45 minutes surfing in the ocean assisted by personal watercraft, which pulled them through relatively calm waters.
A few hundred fans who had planned ahead for the appearance — and some lucky bystanders caught off-guard by the commotion — got a chance to see Metallica up close in an unlikely venue.
“It’s amazing that they’re out here like this. I can’t even believe this is happening,” Vaccaro said after shaking hands with Trujillo as he exited the water. “We came out hoping there was a chance this could happen, but this is amazing.”
The surfing demonstration was just one of nine exhibits for the festival, each of which was coordinated by one or more of the four men who make up Metallica. The exhibits at Bader Field, where the festival attracted an estimated 32,000 people per day, ranged from skateboarding, to a custom car show, to a graffiti art demonstration.
Fans said the exhibits offered unique opportunities to catch glimpses of the band members’ personal lives.
The line to get into Kirk’s Crypt, a building that housed Hammett’s personal collection of horror movie memorabilia, was more than 100 people long at times.
The band members made relatively low-key appearances at many of the exhibits they sponsored, leaving lots of lucky fans raving about how approachable they were.
Hammett and Trujillo partnered with Billabong to bring the All Out Air Assault to Atlantic City’s beaches. The two Metallica musicians said they put together a competition featuring the world’s best aerialists because surfing and music should go together.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Raven Lundy, Billabong’s regional marketing director, who introduced the pair. “They are good surfers, and they love it.”
Robert Glenn, of Flemington, Hunterdon County, was spending the afternoon at Sammy’s Beach Bar at Bally’s Atlantic City with his brother when he realized the surfing demonstration with the band members was going on in front of him.
“I’ve just been impressed with how accessible they’ve been,” said Glenn, who had a two-day ticket to the festival. “They’re just regular guys who happen to make a lot more money than the rest of us.”
Glenn said his favorite memory of the festival was meeting Metallica frontman James Hetfield at the custom car exhibit Saturday. About 100 custom hot rods, motorcycles and cars were on display on the event grounds, including Hetfield’s own 1936 Auburn Roadster.
Traffic was backed up on Albany Avenue near Bader Field because of the festival, but cars were able to slowly make their way through. Residents in the surrounding Chelsea Heights neighborhood said while the music from the festival was loud, the concertgoers were generally courteous.
Some residents offered directions to several of the festival attendees. One enterprising resident near the intersection of Wisteria Road and Filbert Avenue set up a Hawaiian-themed lemonade stand outside of a home, hoping to attract weary pedestrians.
Festival crowds also appeared to present few problems for police. As of 9:30 p.m. Sunday, there had been one arrest related to the festival, Atlantic City police Sgt. Monica McMenamin said. Details were not immediately available. On Saturday, there was also one arrest as the result of a fight. The incident occurred outside the grounds on Albany Avenue, police said.
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