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Atlantic City Gems Rediscovered

Atlantic County Magazine – GACCA Article

Print Date 11.5. 2021

By Judy Brenna

The theme for today is “perspective”. Sometimes we forget what’s right under our noses. Like when you’re searching all over the house for your car keys, shouting expletives along the way, only to realize 20 minutes later you had them in your right hand the whole time. Or like the Stockton University Atlantic City Campus. When I worked in Atlantic City, I drove past the Stockton AC Campus every single morning and never once did I consider what went on over there. I just assumed they were dorms, and usually grumbled with jealousy ((and more expletives)) how lucky those residents were. I got a huge dose of perspective and reality last week when our organization, The GACCA, took a trip over to the campus and took a comprehensive tour, led by hospitality powerhouse, and Professor of Hospitality, Tourism & Event Management Studies, Donna Albano.

First, if you don’t know Donna, then you are severely lacking fulfillment in your life. Just being in her bubbly and fiery presence you feel a jolt of passion for the industry. She speaks with such fervor about Stockton that you oddly find yourself wanting to enroll and sign up for some courses. I also had zero clue how totally forward and “woke” Stockton was ((as Septa Unella enters stage right, with her shame bell, I shoot her a powerful “don’t even” glare so she slowly recoils into the shadows)). They have the absolute coolest curriculum, and even cooler centers dedicated to impactful and useful topics, like their Women’s Gender and Sexuality Center, and their Marine Field Station, which also acts as the NJ Coastal Research Center, offering teaching and research laboratories, research vessels, marine sampling equipment, and a fleet marine technology instrumentation, including a magnetometer, which I have no idea what that is, but it sounds super scientific so it’s incredibly exciting.

My favorite part of our trip to visit Donna was her lesson on local wines. I don’t think people in general fully appreciate what we have here in NJ. Fun fact alert! ((although in hindsight it’s well known so never mind)) Did you know that in prehistoric days our great state was swampland? Thanks to thousands of years of mineral deposits, carried by ancient waterways, our soil now is chockfull of the good stuff that makes us the garden state today. And because of that, our local wine purveyors have some stellar products out there. Again, perspective. Stockton even has a wine studies course, where you can learn all about these local wineries, the types of grapes they cultivate, and the how and why behind their wine making techniques. It’s thoroughly fascinating. And the wines we tasted were delicious! I don’t even drink a lot of wine, but I did that night. You know, for research purposes.

After our lessons concluded at Stockton, we took a quick hop over to another gem in AC, the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall to visit with Scott Banks, and learn about the awesome history of the Hall and their world-famous organ ((and gorge on delicious desserts)). Which brings me to my next lesson in perspective. I cannot tell you how many times I’d been to the Hall over the years, from concerts, to pageants, to the Ice Capades, to any other reason, and never once did I take into consideration the rife history. Scott shared with us the massive undertaking in constructing the hall ((during the depression no less!)) and the sheer awesomeness of the pipe organ. You know I’m a history nut. This had to be one of the coolest tours I have ever taken in my life ((rivaling the freaky funeral tour I took with my sister in NOLA a few years ago)). I was so sad when I had to leave. I left wanting more, to know more. And I didn’t get to the organ yet!

We started out in the museum section, while Scott enthusiastically walked us through key points of interest in the showcases, giving us history lessons along the way ((as the nerd inside me kept making “squee” sounds)), and then led us to the main arena where the pipe organ was, unsuspectingly looming in the corner. I knew, and most of you probably already know, ((if you read my article a year and a half ago about the pipe organ you’d know, and if you didn’t, well… Septa Unella pops her head out)) that Atlantic City houses the largest organ in the world, with over 33,000 pipes. But what I didn’t know was what this instrument went through to first be built, and then suffered over the decades. And the fact that this place was designed with surround sound before surround sound was even invented ((insert mind blown emoji here)). I also didn’t know an instrument could bring a human to tears, involuntarily. Scott gave us a little taste of what the pipe could do. He didn’t have the organ at full capacity, only about 25%, and the experience we got when listening to this amazing thing, it made me weep, and not just because he was playing a piece from Star Wars. I stood in the center of the arena to listen and at one point I literally felt like I was IN the song, swirling around with every crescendo. It was a completely wild experience. Kind of the same overwhelming feeling you get when you look out at the Grand Canyon. Chock full of perspective.

This is an experience you absolutely should not miss. It’s bucket list worthy. And it just so happens you can check this off your list right now. Tours are weekly at 10 am until noon, which takes you into a free live recital. I wholeheartedly insist you get some perspective and go to and book your tour. And then afterwards stop by ((shameless plug)) the Deauville Inn, in Strathmere, and check out our new Happy Hour Specials, Taco Tuesdays, our Thanksgiving Catering Menu, and our latest events!

Until next week, folks… #stayjerseystrong!

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