Those planning to attend this weekend’s Cherry Point Air Show should bring one very important item — patience.

Traffic is expected to be congested in Havelock and along the major corridors of U.S. 70 and N.C. 101 getting into and out of town throughout the weekend. Those trying to get to the show should expect traffic delays.

“We hope people allow for enough time to get to the show,” Havelock Police Chief Marvin Williams said. “People aren’t going to be able to leave their house at 11 o’clock and expect to be watching the air show at 12. It’s not going to happen that way. It’s going to be bottlenecked, but everyone is going to be working to try to get everyone through as fast as we can.”

For the 2016 show, a combination of factors led to massive traffic jams along U.S. 70 during the Saturday day show. Traffic backed up 10 miles or so toward New Bern as an estimated 95,000 people sought to take advantage of pleasant weather to enjoy the show. Some attending the show reported traffic delays of more than two hours. Others became frustrated and simply turned around without making it to the show.

The traffic congestion prompted a review of the parking and traffic plan for the 2018 show. Some of those changes for this year’s show involve the closure of Cherry Point’s Slocum Gate on U.S. 70 just west of Havelock.

Additionally, traffic flow for the general public for the air show will be in a single direction entering and exiting the base, with inbound traffic all flowing through the Cunningham Gate on Fontana Boulevard (N.C. 101) and outbound traffic routed through a normally closed gate farther up N.C. 101.

Other changes involve new traffic flow into the parking areas that will allow more vehicles to be parked at one time.

“We really want to make sure our guests have the best possible visit to the air station for this year’s air show,” said Jim Riemer, the Cherry Point air show director. “Re-engineering the air show traffic flow and parking plan has been a major challenge that we have met head on to make significant improvements for the visiting public.”

Cherry Point will have more than 140 military police officers and Marines available to help with traffic and parking on base.

Outside the gates, Havelock is expecting to bring in an extra 20 to 30 officers to help with traffic each day. The city is getting help from the Craven and Carteret sheriff’s offices, the N.C. Highway Patrol, and departments from as far away as Jacksonville, Kinston and Greenville.

“There’s been a few changes with the parking on the base, and we’re hoping those changes are going to help us out the most,” Williams said. “Two years ago, that was an issue, how expeditiously they could get cars in, but hopefully with those changes we’ll be able to minimize the amount of congestion in town.”

He is encouraging those living in the area who have no plans to attend the air show to simply stay home during peak traffic times.

“Our advice to them is to go ahead and stock up on whatever you need and just stay home during those peak times when traffic is going to be going in and going out,” he said. “If they can just bear with us for these three days, it’s the cost of having the benefit of being so close to this military base.”

Williams said those coming to the air show should drive carefully, follow the directions of officers and signs, and be patient.

“Safety is the most important thing,” he said.

Gates open to the public for the night show at 5 p.m. Friday, with the show expected to start around 7 p.m. and conclude at 10:30 p.m. Gates open for the two day shows Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m., with the show getting started at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at 4 p.m. A Saturday concert featuring country singer Jordan Davis is scheduled for 5 p.m. after the Blue Angels fly.

Parking and general admission to the air show are free. Premium bleacher, box seat and chalet seating is available. Prices vary based on date of attendance and seat. Premium seating can be purchased in advance through the air show website at www.cherrypointairshow.com.