Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June

23, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

America – Free – on the Beach

Outsized kites in primary colors, a brand new beach, a bustling beach

bar, scores of kids on Boogie Boards, and the sight and sound of

breaking waves – that is the background for America’s free concert at

the Hilton beach in Atlantic City on Sunday, June 27.

The rock group, formed in the late 1960s, now consists of Dewey

Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, who still look very much as they did when

their megahit, "A Horse with No Name," rocketed to the top of the

charts in 1972. Among their other Top 10 hits are "I Need You,"

"Ventura Highway," "Tin Man," "Lonely People," "Sister Golden Hair,"

and "You Can Do Magic."

The three original members of America – Dan Peek left in 1977 to

pursue a solo career in Christian music – were all sons of American

Air Force officers stationed in the United Kingdom when they began to

make music together. The ex-pats, considered part of the British

Invasion, mixed rock, pop, and folk elements, and won the Grammy for

Best New Artist in 1972.

America’s latest album, "Human Nature," released in 1998, won’s Album of the Year award. The group has been touring

successfully for three decades. A review on by Greg "Blue

Wren" Warren sums up what audiences can expect from an America

performance: "Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell still have the same

charm and ability to communicate with their audience as they did when

I saw them all those years ago. They took us back to those times with

songs like Ventura Highway, Tin Man, Sister Golden Hair, and a killer

rendition of Sandman. In this show they did a great cover of the Mamas

and Papas’ California Dreamin.’ They also did new songs from Human

Nature, but the songs never grabbed the audience the way the old songs

did. But if you’d like to step into the rock and roll time machine, go

see America. They do a superb job of sparking those memories."

On June 27, the time machine will be a beach, a beach newly restored

by the Army Corps of Engineers. Last year, the Hilton beach concert

featured Three Dog Night – and lots of water. Eroded by storms, the

Atlantic City beach in front of the Hilton was a tad narrow. Some fans

who had arrived hours early and set up elaborate picnic stations near

the stage found their coolers floating by show time. On a perfect blue

shore day, with water temperatures well into the 70s, the waves just

added to the fun, as any number of the fans – and most of their

children – just sang along from the surf.

This year, the beach is wide, flat, and well able to accommodate any

concert goers who would prefer to stay dry.

America performs at 4:30 p.m., but there is lots going on before – and

after – the show. Live entertainment begins at noon, followed by a

"Jersey Idol" competition. The outdoor music continues until 10 p.m.,

at which time it moves just a few yards, inside to the Hilton’s

nautical-themed Dizzy Dolphin bar. Throughout the day, there will be

giveaways. The grand prize is a Norwegian Cruise Line vacation. In

addition, 30 mountain bikes will be given away.

For the kids, there are games and face painting. For the adults, the

Hilton has a beach bar. It has been expanded this year, and offers

light meals and live entertainment, often reggae or Jimmy

Buffett-inspired beach music. While drinking is not allowed on the

boardwalk, it is fine to stroll the beach in front of the Hilton with

a frozen margarita.

One of the delightful things about a beach day in Atlantic City, with

or without entertainment, is that it is just so easy. Anyone who has

attempted to find parking at a New Jersey beach – any New Jersey beach

– on a Sunday will find it amazing that there is so much inexpensive

($3) parking so close by. The Hilton has both surface lots and an

indoor garage. Park the car, walk through the hotel, and the boardwalk

is right there. For those who want a day at the beach with minimum

fuss, the Hilton also rents excellent blue canvas lounge chairs, huge

beach umbrellas, and even cabanas and hammocks. The rentals are not

cheap. The fee to rent two chairs, complete with foot rests, and an

umbrella, along with unlimited towels, runs to some $40 on weekends.

Of course, concert goers are free to bring their own chairs, and the

schlepping is relatively easy. The Hilton’s street-to-beach passageway

is crowded with everything from red wagons to wheeled beach chair

carriers stacked high with pails and shovels all summer long. An

employee is stationed outside of the bathrooms nearest the beach,

vacuum in hand, all day long when the sun is out.

The Hilton is having an indoor barbecue on the day of the concert, but

only for invited guests. No matter, it takes place in the theater, and

who wants to be inside? A good choice for a quick outdoor lunch is the

Ocean Grill. Just a few steps north of the Hilton on the boardwalk, it

is a dependable spot for beach food – hot dogs, cheesesteaks, funnel

cakes, and the like – and always has a good selection of top quality

fresh fruit. A little farther north is the Tropicana’s new Marketplace

complex. It houses a Hooters, where 11-year-old boys can be found,

faces pressed to glass, peering inside with great concentration;

Corky’s Ribs and B.B.Q., a sports bar that has a number of outdoor

tables; and a smoothie/ice cream/pizza shop, also with outdoor tables.

The Hilton, the southernmost casino hotel in Atlantic City, is reached

via exit 2 of the Atlantic City Expressway. Its free June 27 America

concert could be the perfect prelude to the upcoming July 4 weekend.

Sand, surf, kites, frozen drinks, a band with a patriotic name – the

ingredients are all there.

– Kathleen McGinn Spring

America, Hilton Hotel and Casino, Boardwalk and Boston

Avenue, Atlantic City, 609-347-7111. Free. Sunday, June 27, at 4:30

p.m. Free.

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