Most of the vendors are in place and ready to go for this weekend’s Sailfest in New London.
“This is Christmas in July for New London,” said Sailfest Executive Director Barbara Neff, who has been running the event since 1996.
This weekend up to 300,000 people may make their way to Sailfest, with more than 200,000 expected Saturday night for the fireworks display.
Neff says that kind of turnout is not something she ever imagined, much less being in charge of for close to three decades.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “We sat around the table one day with our public safety committee one day and I looked around the table and I said, ‘how the heck am I sitting around this table?’”
Local businesses are also getting ready for what could be a crush of customers. Restaurants close to the Thames River are getting ready, with extra staff, food, and drinks ready to go.
Jose Martinez opened Thames Landing Oyster House on the same day Sailfest started in 2018. He says he’s excited to celebrate one year of business with a flood of customers. His restaurant is across from some of the main attractions of Sailfest.
“It’s going to be a lot of people,” Martinez said. “I’m sure it’s going to be more people than last year so at least this year I’m more prepared, than you know. It’s going to be crazy.”
Connecticut State Police did a security sweep of the piers Thursday morning, sending Connecticut State Police divers underwater to inspect all of the critical infrastructure. Even though there has never been any kind of serious security incident at Sailfest, the state did not want to take any chances.
Steven Chapman, the commander of the dive team told NBC Connecticut, “We’re just conducting some pre event sweeps of the piers and sea walls looking for any kind of parasitic or IED type-devices.”
Barbara Neff is expecting a very busy weekend, and she can’t wait for the weekend to start.
“My favorite part is to see all of the families, all of the diversity in the city, having a good time, and enjoying New London,” she said.
NBC Connecticut and Telemundo Connecticut are the official television partners of Sailfest. Learn more here.