Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 28, 2013

Security upped for Cherry Festival

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — 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.

“It’s just understood,” he said.

Most non-parade Cherry Festival days will have 10 full-time and five reserve Traverse City police officers working the Cherry Festival. Heffner said most officers will be on foot, but those on motorcycles handle the most calls — for lost wallets, lost people or blocked cars — in congested downtown and bay front areas.

Tkach said lost children are the biggest security concern every year, but the festival has a 100 percent kids recovery rate, thanks to specific procedures developed over the years. He said attendees with questions should seek out festival staff and volunteers, who all have walkie-talkies and, typically, a red polo shirt.

“If anybody in public sees anything wrong or out place, bring it up,” he said. “We want to have a safe environment. We’re a family friendly event.”