With a speech from President Donald Trump and the Thunderbirds flying team roaring overhead, the Air Force Academy will graduate 1,000 cadets Thursday.

The 10:30 a.m. event will pack Falcon Stadium. More than 19,000 tickets for the graduation were snapped up, ensuring a string of traffic tangles in northern El Paso County.

It’s more than a graduation

Getting finished with the Air Force Academy is almost as complicated as gaining admittance to the exclusive school.

The night before graduation, there are hundreds of smaller events as cadets pin on their new lieutenant’s bars and are sworn in as officers.

Bird watching

The Air Force Thunderbirds flew into Colorado Springs Monday for their annual graduation visit.

They’ll practice for the graduation show on Tuesday starting at 10:30 a.m. This will lead to road closures on the academy and traffic tangles in the northern reaches of the city as rubber-neckers try to drive and watch an air show at the same time.

The Thunderbirds will be back for graduation, flashing over the stadium at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday as cadets toss their hats skyward.

If you want to see them, stake out a parking place early. Don’t park on Interstate 25 unless you’re trying to meet a Colorado State Patrol trooper and are prepared to make a hefty donation to the state’s public safety endeavors.

Avoid the rush

If you don’t already have tickets, sleep in and watch it on gazette.com. If you’re headed to the event, get an early start. Gates to the academy will open at 7:30 a.m. and early risers can avoid long lines at stadium gates.

If you go, be ready for airport-like security and a long day in the sun. Temperatures are expected to hit 70 degrees in the Pikes Peak region Thursday, so a floppy hat and sun screen are survival tools.

“Guests may be asked to step through metal detectors and may have their bags, purses and other hand-carried items searched,” the academy said in a news release.

Packing food and water to the stadium means a hassle. Food must be carried in clear 1-gallon bags. Only sealed bottles of water are allowed.

Trump set to speak at 2019 Air Force Academy graduation

You need the rest

Getting through the city from Monument to Woodmen Road could be an adventure as graduation crowds head to the academy Wednesday and Thursday.

Your best driving bets to get to work in the north end of town are taking a big detour to the east, or sleeping in.

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx

Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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