Published: Jul 10, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Jul 08, 2011 05:39 PM
Attendance at Fuquay-Varina's Independence Day celebration reached a record high with about 12,000 to 15,000 people attending the town's fireworks show. But the increasing crowd size has town officials concerned about safety.
"It's by far the largest crowd we've ever had," said Fuquay-Varina Commissioner Charlie Adcock. "I just want to make sure we are doing what we need to do to make sure that it remains a family-friendly event."
At least two fights broke out at the July 3 event at South Park. One was quickly dispersed but police charged two people in a second melee that attracted a crowd of about 30 onlookers, said Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Larry Smith.Betty Ann Burch, 22, of 702 Johnson Pond Road in Fuquay-Varina, and Teresa Diane Hunter, 25, of 224 N. Peggy St. in Spring Lake, were charged with rioting and assaulting a police officer, according to arrest reports.
It's the first time in recent years that an arrest was necessary at the event, Smith said. He and parks director Woody Harvey are scheduled to meet soon to review any potential changes for the Independence Day celebrations.
All but one Fuquay-Varina police officer - 19 total - worked the event, Smith told commissioners at a July 6 meeting.
The police chief is considering asking for help from other law enforcement agencies for the 2012 event. The town also has a grant application pending that could add four more officers.Fuquay-Varina officials also plan to get proactive next near and add safety measures similar to those used in Cary, which saw 20,000 people attend its event before it was rained out.
Among the security measures being discussed is a bag check.
"I believe the chances of something happening that would be negative, like a fight or altercation, is less likely to happen if people see police," Adcock said. "In general, we need to be thinking about safety."The town's Independence Day celebrations began in 1868 when a large number of people gathered at Mineral Spring Park on July 4. The town later switched the event to July 3 to allow families to be together on the Fourth of July.
The town's population has boomed over the past 10 years with more young families moving to the area have helped to draw people to the annual show.
"I remember a few years ago we had about 1,500 people" at the celebration, said Mayor John Byrne. "Fuquay-Varina is changing."
The fireworks and celebrations cost about $17,500 this year and included performances by the Craig Woolard Band, free inflatables and rides.
About 20,000 people turned out for Cary's Fourth of July activities, before the fireworks show and concert were rained out, Collins said. Usually, about 30,000 attend, he said.
Only about 3,000 people returned July 5 for the rescheduled fireworks show.
The town of Cary contracts with a security company who perform light bag checks for people entering the Booth Amphitheatre for the town's celebrations, said Cary Cultural Arts Manager Lyman Collins. The town does allow alcohol at the celebration, he said.
This was Morrisville's second year hosting a fireworks show. The town saw about 4,000 to 5,000 people turnout to watch the show at Morrisville Community Park and from homes nearby, said spokeswoman Stephanie Smith.
"We have police monitoring traffic on the road outside the park and assisting pedestrians crossing the street, and we also have police patrolling the park during the event," Smith said. "We did not have any incidents at this, or any prior fireworks event."