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60,000 to 80,000 expected to attend W.Va. air show

August 31, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- With mild temperatures in the weekend forecast, organizers of Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show say 60,000 to 80,000 people or more could turn out for the free, two-day event hosted by the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

"The quickest and easiest access to air show parking will be off the Tabler Station exit of Interstate 81," Maj. Melissa Shade said Tuesday in a telephone conference interview.

General parking will be available in a field off Business Park Drive and individuals are encouraged to wear good walking shoes, officials said.

Handicapped parking will be available at the Polo Ralph Lauren parking lot along Novak Drive, and buses will shuttle spectators from both parking areas to the air base, officials said.

Security measures in place at the National Guard base will be in effect, meaning everyone attending the air show cannot bring weapons, including pocket knives, onto the base. The ban also applies to individuals with concealed weapon permits and off-duty law enforcement personnel.

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Coolers (unless medically required), backpacks, glass containers, skates and skateboards, bikes, Segways, roller blades and pets also are prohibited, as are political activity and signs of any kind.

Food is not allowed to be brought in, but Shade said security officials would not confiscate a snack, such as crackers, that parents intend for their children.

A number of food vendors will be on site, Shade said.

Lt. Col. Michael O. Cadle, public affairs officer for the West Virginia National Guard, said those attending the air show should treat their visit to the military base like they would taking a commercial air flight.

"If you can't take it on the airplane, (generally speaking) you can't take it on the base," Cadle said.

Gates open at 9 a.m. Plenty of water will be available at stations set up for the event, Shade said.

Event organizers are discouraging motorists from traveling on U.S. 11, but drivers who travel the route should expect a detour around the base via Paynes Ford Road, Airport Road and Novak Road beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and continuing until 7 p.m. both days.

While general traffic will not be allowed on U.S. 11 between Paynes Ford Road and Novak Drive during that time period, residents in the blocked area should have received letters to pass through traffic control points. Residents in the area who haven't received special parking passes should contact Shade at 304-616-5240.

In addition to the detour, parking will be prohibited from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on U.S. 11 from Novak Drive to Paynes Ford Road; Business Park Drive from Novak Drive to the Interstate 81 bridge for exit 8; Stewart Avenue from Wren Street to Winchester Avenue; Kelly Island Road from Paynes Ford Road to the Air Guard base entrance; Paynes Ford Road from U.S. 11 to Airport Road; Airport Road from Paynes Ford Road to Novak Drive; and Novak Drive from U.S. 11 to Airport Road and I-81.

Parking also will be prohibited at the Orgill business lot along Business Park Drive, Polo Ralph Lauren lot along Novak Drive (except for handicapped parking) and the park-and-ride lot near the I-81 bridge.

After the event, Business Park Drive will be turned into two westbound lanes to I-81, and spectators exiting parking lots will have the options of turning south on U.S. 11 or onto Novak Drive to reach W.Va. 9.

State, local and military police will guide travelers through congested areas, along detour routes and into designated parking locations.

Admission is free but organizers are encouraging those who attend the show to make a $10 donation to benefit United Way of the Eastern Panhandle.

Travelers may download a detailed map of the detour route and parking areas at the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge website at http://www.martinsburgairshow.com.

More information about the air show and open house can be obtained by calling 304-616-5100.

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