Safety precautions are underway downtown to prepare for the more than 50,000 people expected to fill the Inner Harbor Tuesday for Baltimore's annual New Year's Eve fireworks celebration.
The New Year's Eve Spectacular is scheduled from 9 p.m. Tuesday to 12:30 a.m. at the Inner Harbor.
The city has made significant security changes over the past two years in an effort to prevent violent incidents such as a fatal stabbing and the wounding of a child from celebratory gunfire during city celebrations in 2011 and early 2012. The safety measures included erecting spectator fencing in the Inner Harbor to help police better monitor crowd flows. Bike-rack fencing is expected again this year, organizers say.
Other security measures have also been taken in the aftermath of last year's Boston Marathon bombing. Baltimore police plan to unveil details of their security plans for the event today.
Downtown events have been largely incident-free this year, including the last major event held at the Inner Harbor — the Aug. 29 NFL regular season kickoff celebration and free concert with country music star Keith Urban. As was the case for that event, U.S. Coast Guard officials said they will enforce a "safety zone" to restrict boat traffic in and around the Inner Harbor on Tuesday night.
The zone will extend between 100 and 300 yards from 11 p.m. until 1 a.m. around two barges that will carry the event's fireworks, Coast Guard officials said. One barge will be situated near the Domino Sugar plant while a smaller barge will be closer to the Constellation.
Boating will be prohibited around the Inner Harbor during the fireworks show. No boats will be allowed to enter or dock in the "safety zone" after 11 p.m., according to the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.
Local band Alter Ego will perform at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater and a laser show will count down to 2014. At midnight, a fireworks and light show will fill the sky over the Inner Harbor. Promoters said it will be able to be seen from the Inner Harbor promenade, Rash Field, Federal Hill, Fells Point, Locust Point and Canton.
"Right before midnight, Mayor [Stephanie] Rawlings-Blake will do the countdown and at the stroke of midnight the fireworks will go off," said Tracy Baskerville, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts. "It's a great alternative for people who don't want to or can't pay for a party and it's a great way to dance the night away, listen to a great band and watch the fireworks."
Image Engineering will put on the light and pyrotechnic display. The Baltimore-based company is responsible for light shows that precede Washington Capitals games and created the pregame introduction programs for the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns. The company was also behind the holiday lighting of the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon earlier this month.
In case of a cancellation due to severe weather, such as high winds or torrential rain, promoters said the New Year's Eve fireworks show will be moved to 7 p.m. Thursday.
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