LOCKPORT - Summer is over for the city's Friday night Canal Concert Series, and both the mayor and police chief agree that it has been a very good year.
The Labatt Blue Canal Concert series, which began June 29, drew crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 people each night for the past nine weeks, ending on a high note Aug. 24 with one of its largest crowds, for the band Tea Party.
"It's been fairly uneventful, relatively speaking," said Police Chief Lawrence Eggert. "We've had a pretty good run and haven't had a lot of serious stuff going on. Just the usual drunks directing traffic or passing out in the road."
"I think our strong police presence helps here, and we've been very, very fortunate. You get knuckleheads every week, but if you are going to be a knucklehead, you don't need a concert to be a knucklehead. You are just a knucklehead," said Mayor Michael Tucker said.
One factor beyond their control was the heat this past summer with temperatures up to 95 degrees, and Eggert said the city fire department rescue workers were "pretty busy" both inside and outside the concert venue.
"It can get pretty hot standing out on that asphalt," Eggert said of the Ulrich City Centre, between Main and Walnut streets. "And [on some days] rescue workers had to go into that crush of people six or seven times."
He said that in addition to the increased rescue calls, the heat can lead to violence, as the heat leads people to drink more and then get drunk.
Lockport also had to deal with an issue that occurred at Darien Lake this summer: a pedestrian hit by a car. Local author and city resident Brandon Stickney, 45, was struck by a car after a concert while crossing Walnut Street at 11 p.m. Aug. 17. He was taken by Mercy Flight to Erie County Medical Center with head injuries and is now recovering.
Tucker said that Stickney was struck as he tried to cross in the center of the road.
With the exception of that incident, Eggert said not many problems required police intervention. This year, for the first time, the concert promoter handled all the security inside the venue, and Lockport police patrolled around the concert area. Eggert said that worked well because any problems could be handled immediately by police.
"We have officers at every gate, officers on pretty much every corner, and we have a lot of police cars in evidence. We have ATVs running around. We have bicycle patrols out. . People see that, and they know that they can come here and not have to worry about a problem," he said.
He said that at every concert he sees people walking up to officers and shaking their hands, thanking them and saying, "I know that by you being here we can be safe with our families."
Eggert said the city paid the police department about $30,000 in overtime, which provides six officers on their regular patrol shift and 12 officers on concert detail, which includes foot, bike and motor patrols.
"I think it is money well spent, because all it takes is just one major event at a concert like that and people are going to just stop showing up," Eggert said.
Tucker called it an investment in the city, noting that taxpayers pay each week for the stage, nine paramedics from the fire department and the police officers.
Last year's cost to the city was about $123,000 for the nine-week series. Tucker said he expects the total cost to be a bit higher this year with increased salaries.
"It's our job to make sure everyone is safe. It's not a moneymaker for us. People enjoy it and come out in droves. I look at it as an investment. If we are not willing to invest in our city, I don't know how we can expect anyone else to," Tucker said.
Still, Eggert said, he and his officers are not necessarily sad to see the end of the summer concert season.
"We have officers assigned to the concert, and people like doing them, but by the end, anytime you deal with a crowd situation it's pretty tiring. You have to move around a lot, talk to people and occasionally deal with confrontations. And all the equipment you wear. It does take its toll, and by the end [our officers] are saying, 'It was great, but I'm glad we get a break,'?" Eggert said.
Tucker said the concert series has been a plus for his city.
"I'm not naive enough to think that everyone likes this [concert series], but restaurants, bars and hotels do well," Tucker said. "It's become a good thing for our city, and I hope it's going to be here for many more years to come."