Security Precautions in Place as Thousands Celebrate Sailfest in New London

Multiple law enforcement agencies are working the event that is expected to draw 250,000 people over the weekend

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With rides, ships, food, and fireworks, Sailfest was in full swing Saturday evening.

The festival returned to New London for the first time since the start of the pandemic with a lot of celebration, and security measures are also fine-tuned.

New London Police say the festival has now gone two days without incident.

Safety is still a major consideration after recent mass shootings, including the shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois. Security measures are in place to keep thousands of festival-goers safe.

“You're not going to go 25, 50 feet without seeing a uniformed officer on the venue,” Captain Matthew Galante with the New London Police Department said.

Some spectators say they are put at ease by the large police presence.

“Everywhere we looked there were servicemen, there were police officers, there were people with security uniforms on. I felt really comfortable,” said Margie Aston, of Windham.

“There were a lot of people that made us feel really safe,” added Lauren Verge, of Windham.

It quells concerns for vendors from New York selling rum cake, who are spending all three days at Sailfest.

"That was a very good presence here. I didn't feel insecure at all, because everyone has a great attitude and security’s here,” said Roosevelt Banks, of Troy, New York.

However, many are still thinking about the deadly July 4th shooting in Illinois.  

"It is on my mind. I've thought about it before coming down and it even crossed my mind a couple of times while we've been here,” said Marjorie Butkiewicz, of Rocky Hill.

New London officials expect Sailfest to draw 250,000 people over the course of the weekend, which is why it’s an all-hands-on-deck effort for law enforcement.

“We’ve gotten response from our mutual aid agencies, Norwich Police, Waterford Police, and the Connecticut State Police have assisted us," Captain Galante said. "In addition, there's Amtrak police down there, and also our federal partners."

While law enforcement is taking into account recent mass shootings, Captain Galante says a strong security presence is nothing new.

“I know that we're all hyper-vigilant about that tragedy that occurred out in Illinois, but what I would say about that is that law enforcement has to prepare for the unthinkable each and every time we have a large scale event like this,” he said. “I would say that in the end, yes, preparations are there. But more so than any other year? No, because we're always preparing for the unthinkable.”

As a safety measure, there are no coolers, backpacks, strollers, or pets allowed on the waterfront.

Police are also asking the public to be vigilant and report suspicious activity.

“I think everybody needs to be cautious wherever they are. It’s not just here it’s everywhere in the world,” said Michelle Simpkins, of Windham. “Be aware of your surroundings.”

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