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Bethpage Air Show ticket sales resume after website breaks

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are seen rehearsing

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are seen rehearsing for the 2019 Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh. Credit: Barry Sloan

Ticket sales for the upcoming Bethpage Air Show have resumed, after they were suspended Monday because the state's ticketing website crashed within minutes of going online.

All puchases that were completed while the site was experiencing "technical difficulties" will be honored, a state parks spokesman said Tuesday.

"We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate the patience of Air Show enthusiasts as we strive to meet the challenges of holding this large-scale event in a safe manner," the spokesman, Dan Keefe, said in an email.

Monday was supposed to be the first day the tickets for parking were available, an occasion promoted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office. The show, featuring soaring military and civilian aircraft, is staged annually in the airspace above and off the coast of Jones Beach State Park. It was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Last week, Cuomo's office had announced that a limited number of parking tickets for the show, to be held over Memorial Day weekend, would go on sale starting Monday at 9 a.m.

Would-be ticket buyers responding to a Monday morning tweet announcing the website crashing called the situation "really unbelievable," "a terrible experience" and an "#EpicFail."

Howard Knepple of Merrick, 56, who has gone to the show for the past decade, kept trying to get tickets Monday but repeatedly was kicked off the website.

Knepple attends to take photos of the aircraft and usually meets with fellow photographers there.

"Everybody’s on the boardwalk taking pictures. You’ve got big lenses, little lenses," he said.

Eager to return after last year's cancellation — "I was psyched," he said — Knepple started trying to purchase parking access on the website at 9 a.m. He could put a ticket into a cart on the website, but couldn’t get past checkout.

"That happened, like, three times," Knepple said. The website kept timing out.

He called up Cuomo’s office to complain and ask whether there was another way to get tickets. He said he wanted Cuomo to know what was happening.

"Was told they will tell the governor," Knepple said in a text message.

This year's show will have pandemic restrictions to cap attendance. It will be reduced to 50% of the capacity of each parking field. In the past, it has been one of Long Island’s most popular annual events. In 2019, the show drew an estimated 368,000 spectators over its three days, officials said.

This year’s performers are expected to include the Thunderbirds F-16 Fighting Falcons team, Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (Warthog) close air support attack aircraft, the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team and the U.S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue team.

To attend, fans must purchase one ticket, called an "Event Parking Pass," for each vehicle, Cuomo said in a statement Friday.

People may arrive by public buses, though taxis and ride-sharing services, including Lyft and Uber, will be barred.

And individual cars cannot drop off passengers, he said.

Health care workers who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle are being prioritized; the Island’s three health care networks will receive 1,800 parking passes for these employees.

"We are especially pleased that this year we will be able to recognize the selfless and courageous health care heroes who have sacrificed so much over the past year in order to keep their fellow New Yorkers safe," Cuomo said in a news release.

The event is scheduled for May 29 and May 30, Cuomo said in the release.

A livestream will be available on Saturday at abc7ny.com/ and on WABC's connected TV apps on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, and Roku. It will air on Sunday if Saturday rains out.

Attendees also must arrive within the half-hour period they are assigned; for example, from 8 to 8:30 a.m.

In a first, fans will have to watch from the beach. Sitting or standing on the boardwalk, as many are accustomed to, will not be allowed.

Masks are obligatory if people are not at least 6 feet apart; blankets must be 10 feet from each other.

For more details about the air show, go to bethpageairshow.com/.

Clarification: The Bethpage Air Show will be held on May 29 and May 30. If the livestream planned for May 29 is rained out, it will air on May 30 instead. An earlier version of this story misstated this information.

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