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July 6, 2013

Attendance appears down at Boston July 4 events

BOSTON (AP) — Amid high temperatures and heightened security, attendance appeared down Thursday at Boston’s Fourth of July celebration.

The crowds on the Charles River Esplanade seemed smaller than in recent years while a robust law enforcement presence greeted revelers gathering for a performance by the Boston Pops and the city’s fireworks display.

Organizers instituted a series of new security measures this year in the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings — bag searches, limits on coolers and live video surveillance. Authorities have said they believe the marathon bombing suspects initially planned to target the Independence Day celebration.

As she pushed her 2-year-old daughter along the waterfront in a stroller in the afternoon, Sarah Imershein said she was disappointed by the low turnout.

“It feels like there’s more military and police here than people,” the Brookline woman said.

“I think the rules were really hard to understand on what you could bring, so I think people just didn’t come. Too many rules, man. It’s Independence Day,” she said.

Gov. Deval Patrick pinned much of the blame for lower turnout on temperatures that climbed into the 90s.

“I think the heat probably thinned the crowd,” Patrick said. “I had a look from the air ... the outline of the shade is the outline of the crowd.”

More than 100 people were treated for heat-related problems and three were sent to hospitals, according to the city health department.

Patrick expressed optimism that crowds would fill in as the evening progressed and temperatures dropped, but acknowledged it was likely a combination of factors keeping crowds down.

“I think we have done what the public expects us to do in the wake of what happened at the marathon,” he said.

Carlos Arredondo, the cowboy hat-wearing marathon attendee who became part of one of the indelible images of the bombings’ aftermath when he helped rush a badly wounded man from the scene in a wheelchair, was in attendance. He greeted civilian and law-enforcement well-wishers and a woman who told him she’d finished the marathon just minutes before the bombings, then wished him a happy Fourth of July before hurrying away in tears.

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