San Pedro’s Navy Week first saw its popularity explode in July 2011.
The event drew 42,000 visitors, resulting in massive traffic jams and up to four-hour waits in line, under the sun, to tour the visiting aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
So the following year, organizers instituted an online reservation system (along with two, rather than four, visiting ships) that has been in use ever since.
But the event, now known as LA Fleet Week, is about to go back to the old ways.
With LA Fleet Week — the annual event expanded into a full Navy Fleet Week four years ago — just weeks away, organizers say it’s time to ditch the free-but-cumbersome advanced online signups, and once again allow people to come and simply line up for the ships they want to visit.
“The line management (crew) now has a good way (of) dealing with it,” said Jonathan Williams, president of the LA Fleet Week Foundation.
Thousands are expected to attend the four-day event over Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, and five to six ships will be docked in the Port of Los Angeles for tours.
The crowds at Fleet Week have grown each year, leaving port officials to continually work on ways to improve traffic flow and parking.
Requiring people to sign up in advance for the free tour reservations, Williams said, was helpful early on as other strategies were explored. But in more recent years, he said, it has hampered visitation, particularly when announcements went out that the reservations had all been booked. With so many other activities now associated with Fleet Week, he added, it kept some from coming down at all.
So this year, visitors will be free to line up for whichever ship they want to tour. (With reservations, they were assigned a particular ship.) The tours will be on a first-come, first-served basis from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily during Fleet Week.
Visiting ships begin arriving early in the week of Aug. 26.
The names of the ships won’t be announced until the week of the event, because of security regulations.
The event will be near the Battleship Iowa, 250 S. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro. As in the past, admission is free.
Among this year’s highlights are a free opening-day concert featuring Cheap Trick, an obstacle course competition, air shows, military and equipment displays, a STEM expo for youngsters of all ages, a basketball tournament, the Conquer the Bridge Labor Day run and outdoor stages featuring entertainment. Folks can also enjoy the popular Galley Wars culinary cook-off — featuring teams from the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines,
Last year’s event, featuring a Beach Boys concert and a star-studded red-carpet reception for Amazon’s debut of the “Jack Ryan” series, drew record-breaking crowds.