CLEVELAND - The holidays have arrived in Northeast Ohio, with major festivals and tree-lighting ceremonies in Akron and Cleveland planned for this weekend. Security concerns are on many minds amid global terror alerts.
In downtown Akron, the Lock 3 ice rink was open and fireworks were being loaded into place Friday afternoon. Rain couldn’t dampen the spirit ahead of the annual Christmas tree-lighting festival that draws thousands.
“We come every year the day after Thanksgiving, if we're in town. It does feel like the holidays, kind of how we kick things off,” said Jennifer Wegryn, of Copley.
Yet amid the cheer and rain drops, there was an uneasiness over potential threats.
“It's unfortunate because I do think about it, but it doesn’t really stop us from doing what we plan to do,” Wegryn said. Lock 3 Supervisor Chris Griffith said Akron Police officers are on site at the city-owned facility during all hours it is open, with extra officers expected to keep people safe during the tree-lighting Friday at 7 p.m.
“They can expect to see the Akron police out and around, they can expect that it’s a safe family friendly environment and they can hopefully enjoy all the attractions we have,” Griffith said.
In Cleveland, Winterfest will fill Playhouse Square and Euclid Avenue with events for the whole family all day Saturday. The free tree-lighting ceremony and fireworks will begin at 5 p.m., with a ticketed Winter Wine and Ale Fest from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Organizers said they are prepared. Downtown ambassadors will be out in force to assist the public with any needs. They have a direct line of radio communication with Cleveland Police. Extra police officers will also be on patrol to look out for trouble, according to organizers. Parents said they’ll be watchful, too.
“We just are a little more cautious and pay a little more attention, that's all,” Wegryn said.
Winterfest runs from 10 a.m. Saturday until 6:30 p.m. The skating rink at Lock 3 in Akron is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursdays. Ice skate rental costs $3 per person, and skating is free if you bring your own skates.