By Charles Layton
“I have floor and couch space available this weekend for the Bamboozle,” writes an Asbury Park resident on craigslist. “I’ll cook you breakfast each morning.”
It has come to this: people renting out their floors, couches and spare rooms.
According to press reports, there really aren’t any regular rooms left near the site of this giant music festival, unless you’re willing to pay through the nose. (Or unless you want to stay in Ocean Grove, where rooms were still available as of Wednesday. See Paul Goldfinger’s report on that unexpected situation, below.)
Because of anticipated traffic problems, people are being urged to stay far away and commute into Asbury by rail or shuttle bus. But although NJ Transit is adding extra rail service, its officials are also warning people to expect a huge crush at the stations and in the trains.
Tens of thousands of music fans – no one really knows how many – are about to descend on the Asbury Park beachfront for this festival, which begins at 5 p.m. Friday and doesn’t end until 11 p.m. Sunday. The “after parties” will no doubt extend into the wee hours on all three nights.
“I can’t recall an event of this size in recent times in Asbury Park,” Neptune Police Chief Robert Adams told me.
In past years, Adams pointed out, the annual Bamboozle festival has been held in large stadiums, such as the one in East Rutherford, where the concert space is contained and parking is ample. This weekend’s event is different; it’s in an urban space where parking can be difficult even on a normal weekend.
The fact that there’s no real precedent makes planning more problematic than usual. For instance, some restaurant owners in Asbury Park are uncertain whether they’ll be snowed under with customers from the festival, or whether diners will stay away because of traffic and the lack of parking. (It’s like the old joke: Nobody will go there because there are too many people.) Also, how will their employees get to and from work?
The latest estimates on crowds are in the neighborhood of 90,000, broken down as follows: 20,000 on Friday, 40,000 on Saturday and 30,000 on Sunday.
Most of the festival action will be along the Asbury Park boardwalk between Convention Hall and Eighth Avenue, where some 80 bands will perform on seven stages. Traffic will converge on that area via all major thoroughfares, including Route 33 and Route 71, which run through Neptune Township and right to the gates of Ocean Grove.
Chief Adams said the police will be well-staffed for this. “Our major concern is the increase in vehicular traffic,” he said.
Electronic signage will be placed outside the Broadway and Main Avenue entrances to Ocean Grove, directing drivers to keep going toward Asbury Park (that is to say, don’t turn in to Ocean Grove).
Adams said another police priority will be keeping Route 33 flowing so emergency vehicles can get to the Jersey Shore emergency room. A special police command post will be established at the Midtown School on Corlies Avenue.
Within Ocean Grove, he said, police will have a greater than normal presence, including normal patrols but also officers on bikes, on Segways and on foot.
Ocean Grovers can expect aggressive ticketing of illegally parked cars, he said, and cars blocking the paths of emergency vehicles will be towed.
Adams was uncertain how difficult the weekend might turn out to be. “Very possibly this could be less of an event than we anticipate, or it could be more of an event than we anticipate.”
Other Township officials have strongly advised that Ocean Grovers stay put this weekend and not give up their parking spaces unless they have to.
It might be best to think of it as like a really big event at the Great Auditorium, but one that runs non-stop for three days and nights.
Postscript: A question came up earlier on this site as to how much of Asbury’s boardwalk will be closed off during the festival. Tom Gilmour, Asbury’s director of commerce, tells me that the portion of the boardwalk from Convention Hall south to Ocean Grove will remain open to the general public throughout the weekend. The boardwalk north of Convention Hall, and also Convention Hall itself, will be closed to those not attending Bamboozle.
Here’s a song to put you in the mood for the weekend: “Bridge Burning” by Foo Fighters.