Celebrations to draw crowds, event security high

Sunday, June 30th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Large crowds were expected for Independence Day celebrations in Oklahoma in the patriotic wake of last year's terrorist attacks.

More security should also be evident at the traditional fireworks celebrations, parades and concerts.

One of the largest fireworks displays ever in the state was planned for Oklahoma City, which also planned lived music.

``We knew we had to make it bigger than last year,'' said Karen Ocker, director of marketing and design for the Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. ``I think all of American and all of Oklahoma is longing for a sense of community and celebrate being Americans. This has been a tough year and Americans just want to stand next to our neighbors and celebrate our undying spirit.''

In Edmond, more than 50,000 people were expected to be on hand for Libertyfest Parade.

A walking parade for Tulsa residents will begin the Independence Day Celebration on July 4.

``We just want people to come and show their patriotism,'' said Craig Thompson, public information officer for Tulsa parks.

The city will also have fireworks and live music at River Park on the bank of the Arkansas River.

More than 5,000 Enid residents were expected to attend the Enid Symphony Orchestra's concert in the park.

In Muskogee, a July 3 concert was planned at the Love Hatbox Sports Complex.

``This is a pretty patriotic town,'' said Joel Everett, special events coordinator for the city. ``You're kind of forced to be if you're an Okie from Muskogee.''

While Oklahomans will be watching the fireworks, law enforcement and military personnel will be watching out for potential trouble.

Since Sept. 11, military bases have increased their security. This has prompted some communities to move their holiday celebrations, typically held on base, to other locations.

At Tinker Air Force in Midwest City, celebration organizers moved events off base because of security restrictions, said Wendy Nix, special events coordinator for the city.

Fort Sill in Lawton will still host events, but with a few changes, said Marion Doss, marketing assistant at the Army installation.

The fort will be closed to traffic and more than 100 military police officers will staff Fort Sill's two-day holiday celebration, which includes a country music concert with Ty England and Lonestar on July 3.

State and local law enforcement also have been told to be prepared, said Gary Johnson, FBI special agent in Oklahoma City.

``We have not received a specific threat,'' Johnson said. ``Since September 11, we know that the potential for an attack is always there. We know that terrorists like to use significant dates and large gatherings as platforms for terrorists attacks. We just ask that people be vigilant, like they would on any other day.''

In Oklahoma City, additional officers will be on the streets, as they would for any other holiday, said Lt. Pete Walker, the Oklahoma City police officer in charge of the special event security.

``This is just like Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve,'' Walker said. ``Anytime we have an event with a lot of people we are going to have extra officers.''