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Jazz Fest readies for opening day; tight security planned

Crews set up booths for the 2013 Jazz Fest Thursday. Crews set up booths for the 2013 Jazz Fest Thursday.

New Orleans, La. — It was non-stop activity at the Fair Grounds Thursday, on the eve of the opening of the Jazz and Heritage Festival.

"I find it to be very exciting," said Irving Lafayette, who lives next to the Fair Grounds in Gentilly.

"Our neighbors over here will be in a line dance doing some kind of Macarena," said Willie Davis, who also lives near the Jazz Fest venue.

The festival opens just days after a deadly terrorist attack in Boston which has fixated many around the nation and caused law enforcement here to be on guard. Still, security is never an afterthought for the annual Jazz Fest.

"We'll have anywhere from 200 to 250 police officers dedicated to policing the Jazz Fest on every day … it'll flex up some days, flex down some days," said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.

Serpas admits the Boston bombings were on their minds in fine-tuning this year's festival security plan.

"We work every day with our partners in the Joint Terrorism Task Force, we work every day with our partners with the FBI, the ATF and the DEA.  While those agencies have no on-the-ground responsibility for an event such as this, they do provide intelligence and backup and information flow, if something comes to their attention that we need to know about right away," continued Serpas.

With tens of thousands expected to stream through the festival's gates, Serpas said people should exercise patience.  "There will be some different packages of security coming into the festival that will be worked out with the patrons when they come, they'll explain what those are, it's nothing significant, but it's a little closer view," he said.

People living near the Fair Grounds expressed confidence that security for the festival will be more than adequate.

"I don't worry about big major things happening because I think our government is on top of things," said Lafayette.

And when it comes to illegal parking for the Jazz Fest, the city says it will have lots of parking enforcement personnel in place, looking for people blocking fire hydrants, drive ways and sidewalks.

"Oh, it's madness around here," Lafayette said of parking conditions during the festival.

But law enforcement is comfortable that festival attendees will be safe.

"The greatest strength of any nation, and our nation in particular is that we don't back down to people who threaten us and make us afraid," said Serpas.

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