BOSTON (AP) — Amid high temperatures and heightened security, attendance appeared down Thursday at Boston’s Fourth of July celebration, but crowds increased by the start of the festivities.
The crowds on the Charles River Esplanade seemed smaller than in recent years while a robust law enforcement presence greeted revelers gathered for a performance by the Boston Pops and the city’s fireworks display.
Organizers instituted a series of new security measures this year in the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings — bag searches, limits on coolers and live video surveillance. Authorities have said they believe the marathon bombing suspects initially planned to target the Independence Day celebration.
As she pushed her 2-year-old daughter along the waterfront in a stroller in the afternoon, Sarah Imershein said she was disappointed by the low turnout.
‘‘It feels like there’s more military and police here than people,’’ the Brookline woman said.
‘‘I think the rules were really hard to understand on what you could bring, so I think people just didn’t come. Too many rules, man. It’s Independence Day,’’ she said.
Gov. Deval Patrick pinned much of the blame for lower turnout on temperatures that climbed into the 90s.
‘‘I think the heat probably thinned the crowd,’’ Patrick said. ‘‘I had a look from the air ... the outline of the shade is the outline of the crowd.’’
More than 100 people were treated for heat-related problems and three were sent to hospitals, according to the city health department.
Patrick expressed optimism that crowds would fill in as the evening progressed and temperatures dropped, but acknowledged it was likely a combination of factors keeping crowds down.
‘‘I think we have done what the public expects us to do in the wake of what happened at the marathon,’’ he said.
The evening included one surprise: a guest conductor appearance by Richard Donohue, the transit police officer wounded in a shootout with two men suspected in the bombing. Donohue led the Boston Pops in a rendition of ‘‘I'm Shipping Up To Boston’’ by the Dropkick Murphys. He got a standing ovation his efforts.
Carlos Arredondo, the cowboy hat-wearing marathon attendee who became part of one of the indelible images of the bombings’ aftermath when he helped rush a badly wounded man from the scene in a wheelchair, was in attendance. He greeted civilian and law-enforcement well-wishers and a woman who told him she'd finished the marathon just minutes before the bombings, then wished him a happy Fourth of July before hurrying away in tears.
Arredondo called the celebration an important milestone in the healing process, not just for him but also those stopping to tell him their own stories of that day.
‘‘I think there’s no better place to be,’’ said Arredondo, wearing his cowboy hat and a ‘‘Boston Strong’’ shirt in the marathon’s blue and yellow colors.
Kathy Concileo had staked out a nice spot for the evening’s concert, near center stage. The Norwell, Mass. woman said she was surprised at the turnout.
‘‘As much as they say we've healed and moved on, I think this shows that people are still afraid to come out in a crowd,’’ she said.