ATLANTIC CITY — I was wrong.
Anyone who knows me understands I will offer a spirited and passionate argument to prove myself right. But they also know I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong.
And boy, was I wrong about last weekend’s Dave Matthews Band Caravan.
When the three-day Bader Field music festival was announced in March, my gut reaction was “right church, wrong pew.”
There wasn’t a shred of doubt the event would be huge. The DMB Caravan was never the issue. It was the location that concerned me.
At 143 acres, Bader Field — the dormant municipal airport that closed five years ago — was certainly big enough to accommodate the three stages and all the ancillary and entrepreneurial activities that surround such an event.
But access to Bader Field is limited primarily to the two-lane Black Horse Pike (U.S. 40/Rt. 322).
That’s where I figured the problems would lie, along with parking for the throngs that would attend.
Spread something like this out along the beach? No problem. Do it at Bader Field? There isn’t enough aspirin, Xanax or patience. Or so I thought.
I wasn’t alone on this island of doubt. Some of my media colleagues who have covered the town for years agreed the DMB Caravan would overwhelm the highway infrastructure, especially when concert organizers predicted 75,000 people a day would jam the field.
We made dark jokes about traffic backing up for miles, people abandoning their cars along the Atlantic City Expressway like a Minnesota blizzard and city streets hopelessly paralyzed by gridlock.
From that nightmarish situation, we extrapolated the catastrophic public relations hit Atlantic City would take when news helicopters hovering over Bader Field, their cameras pulled to wide shots, broadcast live shots of traffic Armageddon to millions of viewers who could be potential visitors.
But it never happened. There were aerial views, all right, and they showed tens of thousands of people at Bader Field having the times of their lives. With the exception of some brief tie-ups at the Albany Avenue monument — which jams up on a Tuesday night in January — there was no traffic purgatory.
Now in fairness to my critical colleagues and me, our predictions were based on their predictions. A week before the caravan, organizers halved their attendance estimates. Yet we remained skeptical.
Our fears proved unfounded. Based on the average 25,000 who showed up each day, Atlantic City showed it could handle an event of this magnitude, and possibly bigger, with minimal disruptions and inconveniences to residents and visitors.
Had the original estimates been realized, though, that could have been a game changer. I’m still convinced a crowd double the size would have been a massive problem. It would have also helped if the traffic and parking plan had been announced earlier than just a week before the event, but that’s a discussion for another time.
"[Atlantic City's] location was really central. You’ve got good facilities, it’s not, you know, like 39 miles on some two-lane country road — that kind of vibe, you know, so it’s just the fact that it’s practical, there’s a lot of facilities and since we’re not doing like a camping thing we thought it would be good to be close to infrastructure so the fans do have like the backbone of a place like Atlantic City at their disposal."
After the city’s July 4th weekend celebration, including a fireworks display at the 9th St. Beach on Monday, the city settles into its summer routine.
The food varies from Cajun po’ boys and ice cream to American-Thai and authentic Atlantic City grub. Many of the items for sale include recycled, organic and fair-trade products.
The city has committed to a one-year deal with Starr Hill Presents to put on this festival in June at Bader Field, the city's old municipal airport (and the first one in the world). However, said Mayor Langford, "We've signed a one-year contract with the hope of a long-term relationship." The mayor added that he thinks this is a great use of Bader Field, a large stretch of city-owned land that has been on the market since it closed a few years ago.
Thousands of people — from all over the region and country, and some from abroad — trickled into Bader Field throughout the day on Friday, from when doors opened at 1pm till close to 9pm.
Atlantic City Weekly will be bringing you live photos, blogs and more from the DMBC festival this weekend at Bader Field in Atlantic City.
Back in 1969, a decade after the launch of the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island (and nearly 15 years after the Newport Jazz Festival was established in 1964) and just a couple weeks before Woodstock took place in upstate New York (Aug. 15-18), Atlantic City had its own big rock and pop festival. Held Aug. 1-3, 1969, at the Atlantic City Race Course, the Atlantic City Pop Festival featured ...