With nerves on edge after Monday's Boston Marathon explosions, officials at the Houston International Festival and City of Houston say they are up to the challenge of meeting the security needs of an event that organizers believe will bring some 200,000 people to the streets of downtown Houston this weekend and next.
iFest is entering its 43rd year, and will gather an array of artists, performers, vendors, fans, and musical acts including Bootsy Collins, the Wailers and Los Lobos to Sam Houston Park, Tranquility Park and the streets around City Hall. Ticket information and other details are available at ifest.org.
Wednesday afternoon, iFest President and CEO Kim Stoilis sent Rocks Off a statement that said, "Like the rest of the world, our thoughts continue to be with the people of Boston and all those impacted by this tragic event. Security and safety of our patrons has always been a No. 1 concern. It is the lead element of patron experience, and a great patron experience is our No. 1 goal."
As a permitted event of the City of Houston, we follow all guidelines and best practices of our partner city offices, including HPD, HFD and the Mayor's Office of Special Events. Our safety and security plan is layered to address concerns ranging from large to small, and while no event can guarantee 100 percent safety for all attendees, it is our goal.
We take this very seriously.We're very confident that with the support of the Mayor's office and the measures our partners in HFP and HPD have in place, the best interests of our guests, and Houstonians in general, will be managed with professionalism and the highest of standards.
Houston Police Department Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr. released a statement of his own:
The Houston Police Department joins the citizens of Houston in extending our thoughts and prayers to those impacted by Monday's events in Boston. There is no evidence of any credible threats here in Houston and our citizens can be assured that we, along with our local, state and federal partners, are continuously monitoring intelligence gathered in Boston.
In the meantime, as we do on a daily basis, we encourage everyone to be vigilant, watch out for your neighbors and report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency.
"Questions regarding the department's security plans for the International Festival this weekend and next should be referred to our Public Affairs Division -- Public Information Office," said Capt. L.J. Satterwhite of HPD's Special Operations Division. "Our Public Information Officers, under guidance from the Office of the Chief of Police, will serve as the primary source for official information regarding the department's activities."
These statements were released before the explosion Wednesday evening at the West Fertilizer Co. in West, which is now estimated to have killed between five and 15 people and injured more than 100. Early on, investigators believe the blast to be the result of a fire that broke out at the plant, located in the heart of the small town north of Waco, and not the result of any kind of attack.
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But still, the timing couldn't have been worse.