Keeping 14 Thousand Safe During A St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

Posted at 10:41 PM, Mar 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-15 22:41:42-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Irish eyes will be smiling this weekend in downtown Grand Rapids as the 2013 Irish on Ionia festival gets underway.

Organizers tell us they expect a record crowd of 14,000 are expected to attend.

With crowds that size, safety and security have to factor into planning.

Shane Philipsen of Barfly Enterprises, the organization behind Irish on Ionia said it’s a top priority, “We got probably around 60 security personnel out there just to provide safety to our guests and we will have ambulatory care and also have some officers in suit patrolling the area.”

Grand Rapids police say they understand the importance of these large scale events.  It provides a chance to showcase downtown, spurring the local economy.

They also know that when thousands of people collect in a small area and alcohol is involved, police have to be sure to be part of the equation.

Ralph Mason, a Grand Rapids Police Department spokesperson, said, “Over the years we’ve learned how much personnel we will need, we have two shifts that will be working it along with the officers that are doing their jobs also.”

GRPD doesn’t typically release the specific number of officers they have out on duty during events like this, but FOX 17 has learned additional patrols will be devoted to Irish on Ionia.

Mason said, “They will be working in pairs for the most part, going into the crowd and talking with people but the officers don’t want to have to do anything.  They want to watch and let people enjoy themselves.”

While a winter weather forecast might not keep the thousands from attending, it may keep them inside.  That means bars like McFadden’s, Hop-Cat, and Stella’s will be at capacity through out the event.

“They are going to be packed,” said Mason.  “People have to get ready for the crowds.”

The people behind the festivities already have their sights set on making more room for the crowds in 2014.

Philipsen said, “Next year we are going to go big.  We’re going to go bigger and extend down to Fulton and make it huge.”

Safety is also a concern when trying to get home after the celebration.

Yellow Cab of Grand Rapids told FOX 17 the best way to get home after the event is to wait for a cab by the barricades where the road is blocked off and try to flag a taxi down.