The annual fireworks show returns tonight with promise of a spectacular show, but also increased security.
“There are going to be some noticeable changes to events this year,” police chief Erik Blake informed the town selectmen at a recent annual summer taxpayers meeting.
The show attracts thousands to Ocean Park.
Police will call on extra officers from Edgartown, Aquinnah and Tisbury, and large backpacks and coolers will be subject to a search upon entrance to the events by officers and canines, who are looking primarily for “things that are detrimental or harmful to other people,” Chief Blake said.
Admittance will be controlled by limiting access into the venues to specific areas. Snow fencing will help define specific security access points into Ocean Park.
The police began discussing event security following the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
“We put together a public safety team to talk about what it is going to look like this summer and what we need to do to make sure we have safe, fun, enjoyable events . . . to make sure nothing tragic happens,” Mr. Blake said.
He said the gatherings are especially “high profile” due to their concurrence with the visits of the president, First Lady and Attorney General Eric Holder, though he did not say that they will attend either event.
The last Steamship Authority ferry during the fireworks will be diverted to Vineyard Haven, so as to free up the staging area in front of the terminal for handicapped parking and reduce traffic downtown. Current handicapped spaces at the police station will be used for extra personnel and command vehicle parking.
Despite the new measures, the chief said he hopes the event will run smoothly, and congestion will not form at the entrances.
“Our goal is to make this as least arduous as possible,” he said.
The fireworks display will take place Friday, August 16 at 9 p.m.; rain date is Saturday, August 17. Ocean avenue will be closed to traffic at 3 p.m. Seaview avenue from Lake to Samoset avenues will be closed to traffic at 4 p.m. Parking will be available for $10 in Sunset Park and Waban Park, which can be accessed from Naushon avenue. Proceeds go to fund the fireworks show. Handicap parking is available at the Steamship staging area and near the Civil War monument. No-parking areas will be marked 72 hours in advance.