SEATTLE – Safety is priority number one, said officials heading into Seafair weekend. With hundreds of thousands of spectators expected for the Torchlight Parade, security will be bigger than in years past.
“I usually get my chairs out here early,” said Kenny Roberson. He’s been coming to the Seafair parade for the past nine years, and has staked out where his chairs will go.
“This is a good spot,” he said, pointing to the location on 4th Avenue. “This is I think one of the best spots.”
For Kenny Roberson, the biggest security risk faces is losing his chairs. “Some people are really that devious, they’ll cut them,” he said.
It’s how Seafair organizers said they want it to be. Safety is their concern, they said, not on the shoulders of attendees.
In the background, they have been assembling a massive team, using intelligence from federal, state and local agencies to ensure a safe parade.
“We look at what goes on at other venues and other facilities and we share that information to be better prepared,” said Frank Sebastian, Seafair’s emergency manager. He said they use events like the national conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland. They are constantly learning and adapting new techniques.
“We’re going to do our very best to make it a safe secure event and just let people know that we do have their back should something happen,” said Sebastian. “We’re probably going to know about it before they do and hopefully we can mitigate it.”
Armed security will be along the parade route, explained Emily Cantrell, the director of Seafair communications and marketing. “A lot of the measures will be very visible, some of them not visible at all.”
An empty table at their headquarters will be transformed before the parade begins. Sebastian explained it will be filled with computers, sharing surveillance video and intel.
“It’s basically the nerve center of sharing information,” he said. “Should something happen it’s a way to rapidly support the folks in the field.”
Last year, Seattle police asked parade goers to refrain from posting photos to social media, using bandwidth that may be needed by emergency services.
“People have been writing to us asking the pirates to not shoot off their cannon,"said Cantrell. “Sometimes they can be mistaken for the sound of gunfire.”
But Cantrell said later that after talking to the pirate organizers, it was decided they would go ahead with the cannon firing.
It’s what we live for, said Roberson, about the cannons. “We live for the pirates to come out and shoot their cannons off.”
Roberson said he hopes he will still have his spot along the parade route.
“I’ll come back in the morning and check on it,” he said.
The 117 parade entries will start assembling at Seattle Center on Saturday around 12 p.m. The Torchlight Parade is set to begin marching at 7:30 p.m. down 4th Avenue.