If you plan to go to the Scott Air Force Base airshow Sunday, be on time — otherwise you might get stuck in a miles-long line.
This is not one of those happy-go-lucky “get there early, so you don’t miss out on the fun” warnings.
I’m serious about allowing an extra time for entry this year. The gates open at 9 a.m. That’s when you should be there. You don’t need to camp out before the show, but you should be there when the gates open to avoid mile-long lines.
Allow even more time if you plan to take the MetroLink. You’ll have to wait to get on the shuttle if you want to avoid a hike to the main entrance.
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Beating the heat while in line
Don’t sleep in. Don’t go to brunch before. And whatever you do, don’t trick yourself into thinking “it won’t be that hot out there” because it absolutely will be.
According to the National Weather Service, the high Sunday will be around 90 degrees.
My best advice is to stay hydrated. I was chugging water ($3) by the time I made it inside.
Karen Petitt, chief of public affairs at Scott Air Force Base, recommends bringing a small umbrella for shade.
I’m an airshow novice. I had never attended one before Saturday, even though I grew up in the metro-east. I had no clue what to expect before my arrival at about 9:15 a.m. Sure, I anticipated a crowd, but not the heat, waiting and walking.
It was sort of like standing in line for the newest roller coaster at a theme park. You’re hot, sweaty and just about ready to give up right before it’s your turn to experience the ride.
But once you’re beyond the gate, it’s totally worth it.
Don’t get overly anxious while you search for parking. At about 9:15 a.m., I passed plenty of parking spaces as I entered Scott, but if I had not exercised patience, I would have ended up miles away from the field.
You’ll do plenty of walking after you get inside, so follow the crowd of cars when you get there. Jumping out of line or parking in the first space available might not be worth it in the end. Also, I thought my car would be searched. But I was waived onto base by several officers who only smiled at me and told me to enjoy the show.
Leaving the base is much easier than getting on. I had no trouble leaving the show after a few hours.
Getting through security
Greg Allen Ziegler traveled two and half hours from Champaign to attend the airshow. It took him about a half an hour for him to make it through the gates.
“Waiting in a super-long line, I assume to be searched,” Ziegler wrote on Facebook early Saturday. “There were metal detectors, so we emptied our pockets and went through a cursory search. It was quick.”
After you make it through, you can expect a few more lines for food and tours of aircraft interiors.
Admission, including parking, is free. Be sure to bring cash if you plan on buying food at the show. Paying with cash is just easier. The base has ATMs near its food vendors. Prices for food are reasonable. A cheeseburger cost $7, kids hotdogs are $3 and nachos are $4. Coolers aren’t allowed beyond the main entrance. Expect to pay $3 for a bottle of water or $4 for a soda once you get inside.
Enjoying the show
Sure, you could watch the airshow from a distance. But why would you want to? The U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, are the featured performers for the airshow.