ATLANTIC CITY — The thunderous sound of jet planes will still be heard over the Boardwalk this week, but the city’s annual airshow has a new name and message to honor American troops.
After 15 years, the Greater Atlantic City Chamber has renamed and re-branded its signature summer event — the Atlantic City Airshow “A Salute to Those That Serve.”
Along with the branches of the military that will be represented during the show, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the U.S. Army Golden Knights, and the Royal Air Force Red Arrows; a designated “veterans Resource Row” will have tents and tables with 13 service organizations designed to provide information to local and visiting veterans.
Michael Chait, executive vice president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, said the idea to focus the message of the airshow more on active duty and veterans was influenced by another event in Atlantic City.
In May, during the Atlantic City Regional Stand Down event, Chait was introduced to Bob Looby, department employment and education chairman with the New Jersey American Legion.
The Stand Down, which helped provide 154 homeless veterans with meals and clothing, also had several information booths on employment, housing and health care options available to veterans.
The chamber estimated more than 400,000 people attended the free airshow last year.
“It’s hard to put a number on how many vets come to the airshow,” Chait said. “We wanted to provide a resource area for the vets to get information.”
According to a 2017 census conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 16,307 veterans live in Atlantic County.
“You would think that 40,000 or more of that audience (at the Airshow) could be vets, or at least know someone who is,” Looby said. “It’s a natural fit. All the branches of service are there — even the U.K. and the veterans are there representing the past military. The audience to market to will be there. It’s a beautiful marriage.”
Looby said he was excited to see that not only those currently serving but the men and women who have served are taking “center stage” at this year’s airshow.
In years past, military recruiters and service organizations set up booths on the Boardwalk, but this year, the chamber partnered with the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, Caesars Entertainment and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to provide the tents and tables for the national and regional branches of service organizations, including the Wilmington VA Medical Center, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled America Veterans, the NJVet2Vet hotline, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the National Guard transition assistance program and the GI Go Fund.
“It’s always an event we run into a lot of veterans at,” said Patrick Carney, veteran community outreach specialist with the Wilmington VA Medical Center.
His team consists of military veterans and caregivers and will be at the Veterans Resource Row. “We hope we’ll be able to meet a lot of people and answer any questions. Our outreach team is about all-around problem solving for veterans and their benefits.”
The Greater Atlantic City Chamber is also promoting the Noyes Art Garage’s featured art exhibit “100 Faces of War.”
The collection of 100 oil painting portraits of America veterans who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is on loan from the Smithsonian until Oct. 6. The Noyes Arts Garage is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
“They’re really going to hit a home run with the idea — the major service organizations will be there, not just to recruit members but provide our services and explain how can we help our brothers and sisters,“ said Looby. “Veterans helping veterans, it’s simple.”