Heat, tightened security appear to dampen Esplanade attendance
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Whether it’s the stifling heat or tightened security, fewer people than usual appear to be flocking to the Esplanade today in anticipation of the Fourth of July concert and fireworks tonight.
“It really is hot and oppressive, and that doesn’t make it attractive for people,” said State Police Colonel Timothy Alben.
Alben said he also understood that some of the restrictions instituted after the April 15 terror bombings at the Boston Marathon may have led to confusion and that State Police will have to reassess procedures for next year.
“I think it’s going very well, for the most part,” he said about the security. “The public has cooperated tremendously. There are always going to be some people who don’t like [tight security]. We understand that. But I think it’s the world we live in.”
Temperatures rose to 93 in the midafternoon and were lingering at 91 just before 6 p.m. Weather forecasters warned that if you factored in the high humidity today, it would feel like 100.
Ricardo Martinez and his wife, Maritza, of Rochester, N.Y., were undaunted. They rose early in their room at the Wyndham Hotel, turned on the news, and saw that people had slept on the Esplanade to secure a good seat at the Hatch Shell.
“Let’s go! Let’s go!” Maritza recalled telling her husband.
They came to Boston to celebrate Maritza’s 40th birthday and wanted to be as close to the orchestra as possible.
They waited in line for an hour at a checkpoint near the Exeter Lagoon, while event staffers waved metal detector wands over people, and many revelers had to transfer food and drinks from opaque shopping bags to transparent bags provided by the staffers. Some items were confiscated, including scissors and backpacks.
Despite the inconveniences, the Martinezes did not want to be anywhere else. Ricardo, a 53-year-old network engineer who grew up in Malden, said he had been devastated by the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.
“Now it’s kind of ruined,” he said of the Marathon. “Because when you think about it now, all you’ll think about is that a terrorist exploded those bombs.”
He said they came today, in part, as an act of defiance, determined not to let another iconic Boston event be ruined by fear.
“We can’t walk around being afraid because that’s what they want,” he said. “They want us not to celebrate America.”
There was some confusion at the checkpoints. Backpacks were not allowed, but security workers allowed some to carry in large duffel bags and shoulder bags.
“What’s so special about a backpack?” asked Marlene Cook, 46, of Stoneham. State Police spokesman David Procopio said shoulder bags and other similar bags have one main pocket and are malleable and flexible, while backpacks are not.
Steve MacDonald of Boston4 Productions, which produces the event, said at about 3 p.m., “It looks like it’s going to be a late-arriving crowd. ... I’m expecting once the sun goes down, we’re going to get a large influx of people.”
He said the crowd was “very mellow,” noting that the “sun is pretty brutal today.”
Event workers, he said, are going through “case after case” of water, and organizers were urging them to take a break in air-conditioned spaces from time to time.
A Globe photo of the area in front of the Hatch Shell, taken at about 5:30 p.m., showed an unusual amount of green space.
In the wake of the Marathon bombings, authorities said they were heightening security at the event, including reducing the number of entry points to the area, placing new limitations on items that could be brought into the area, and greater traffic restrictions.
State Police Colonel Timothy Alben told reporters Wednesday that hundreds more troopers, federal officials, and police officers from local departments would be patrolling the area all day today. Alben also said there would be “an exponentially larger amount of cameras than ever before.” The wireless surveillance cameras are already set up on telephone poles and trees. Most of them are meant to be visible so they can act as a deterrent, he said.
People are urged to approach troopers with any tips or if they want to provide information anonymously, they may text the keyword Boston4 to 67283.Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.