TRAVERSE CITY — Expect more Traverse City police and explosive-detecting dogs at National Cherry Festival parades and races this year as authorities adjust security measures in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“Unfortunately, after the events in Boston we obviously have to (reexamine) and change things in Traverse City,” said Capt. Brian Heffner. “Not that the public will see changes, but the public needs to know we’re taking every precaution we can to make sure it’s a safe event.”
About 500,000 people are expected to attend the Cherry Festival this year and city police spent the last two months coordinating with other local law enforcement agencies and festival organizers to make sure it remains safe.
Heffner said there will be an increased police presence during the Junior Royale and Cherry Royale parades on July 4 and July 6, respectively, with 20 full-time and 10 reserve officers working both days. Several changes are in store for the parade routes and busy street areas, including officers with bomb-sniffing dogs on patrol to spot-check suspicious bags.
“Typically, we do not have dogs out those days, mostly because it’s so hot and crowded,” he said. “Those dogs are trained in explosive detection and be working those areas of the street as a preventative measure.”
National Cherry Festival Executive Director Trevor Tkach said event organizers beefed up security in recent years. This year there will be more security cameras and private security in the Open Space grounds, he said, in addition to 2,000 volunteers trained to report anything that appears the least suspicious.
“We train them in the motto of, ‘If you see something, say something,’” he said.
Heffner said 20 reserve officers make it possible for the department to cover the Cherry Festival in addition to regular patrol obligations, but one long-standing rule remains in effect for police during Cherry Festival: don’t ask for time off.