NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — Preparations for Sailfest 2022 are underway.
The three-day waterfront festival begins Friday. It has been serving up cool treats along the New London Waterfront during the festival for 20 years, except for the last two summers, which shut down the city’s premier event.
“We’re excited to see the people come out, especially after the tough times we’ve had, we want to see people coming out and having fun,” said Sean Randall of Jungle Juice Smoothies.
Vendors, rides, and other folks were setting up Thursday. There will also be streets closed where more vendors and entertainment will be taking place.
“I am so excited that we are getting past COVID and we are getting back to normal,” said Mike Gallagher of New London.
A lot of the stores downtown and people are getting very excited for this event, which brings hundreds of thousands of people to the city on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It will close downtown streets to accommodate a variety of entertainment and lots of foot traffic.
The big highlight of the event are the fireworks over the Thames River on Saturday night but all weekend long there will be plenty to do.
Along with the excitement, there are some concerns. Members of the police union in the city say with staffing levels low and hundreds of thousands of people expected over the next three days, they are worried about security, especially in light of the parade shooting in Hyland Park, Illinois.
The mayor assured everyone there are a lot of preparations underway for that, with cooperation among several different agencies to make sure the event will be as safe as possible.
“We share the union’s concerns. We always have concerns about public safety during an event like this. You have to. But we’ve planned intensely with our federal partners, our state partners, our local partners and there’s a lot of resources going into providing public safety for this weekend for the crowds,” said New London Mayor Michael Passero.
The mayor said there have been times staffing levels in the police department have been lower during Sailfest but they have been doing this for more than 40 years now and plans to improve each time.
“I can tell you that we have this covered,” Passero said. “For security purposes, everything’s based on the assumption of 250,000 people.”
News 8 spoke with Police Chief Brian Wright in New London who said all sworn personnel from top to bottom, including himself, will be on duty this weekend to try to make sure this is an uneventful event.
“I really feel that we’ll be fine,” Gallagher said.
The biggest crowds are expected Saturday night for the fireworks and the mayor wants to warn people to expect some delays and congestion. He said to also expect you may have to park a little further out and walk.