Maximum Security Preps in Force For December Nights Festival

In the wake of Wednesday’s massacre in San Bernardino, concerns about safety in large gatherings may be on the minds of San Diegans planning to celebrate the annual December Nights festival weekend in Balboa Park.

But authorities and event organizers are quick to assure that security precautions are at a maximum level.

"We've strengthened our communication lines to make sure that we're communicating with all of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners,” says Lt. Scott Wahl, spokesman for the San Diego Police Department (SDPD).

“And what we really ask for is the community to help us with that -- if they see something, if they hear something, say something to us. Grab one of the police officers, security guards there and let them know what you're seeing, what you're feeling and hearing so we can look into it."

Nobody was seeing or hearing anything out of the ordinary as setup crews went about their annual December Nights preparations on Thursday.

But some folks passing through the Organ Pavilion shared concerns about what could happen in a huge holiday crowd setting that might become a target.

"I personally am not going to feel confident and trusting myself in going, you know what I mean?” said one woman who didn’t want to be identified. “So I think a lot of people will be like that -- just doubting a little bit."

However, there were expressions of confidence, in counterpoint to whatever fears are out there.

"It wouldn't deter me,” Tierrasanta resident Larry Luxenburg told NBC 7. “When I mentioned to my wife about coming down here, she said, 'No, not this year, we're going up to Escondido'. But if that wasn't the option, we'd be coming down here."

Said Point Loma resident Bashiri Cooper: "I don't live my life in fear; I'm not going to be afraid of it. I think in a large gathering of people they always have security here. It's generally a safe environment."

This practical but spiritual upshot came from Rod Lanthorne, a member of La Mesa’s Del Cerro Baptist Church who helps organize the fesitival’s Christmas Tree Story” performances: "From a security standpoint, I guess you have to have a pause to make sure everybody's safe. At the same time … 'Good will to men and peace on earth.' You know, the light of the world will overcome the darkness."

December Nights have drawn upwards 100,000 festival-goers, so dealing with heavy traffic and parking-shortage issues always are major considerations for those planning to join the crowds.

"Christmas Tree Story" performances are set for 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with an encore at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

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