Hartford Sizzles as Bieber, Riverfest Fans Converge On City
By WES DUPLANTIER
July 19, 2013
HARTFORD — Even as heat and humidity climbed into record territory Thursday, tens of thousands of people crowded into the city for an eventful evening that featured a live performance by pop sensation Justin Bieber, the annual Riverfest fireworks show and a footrace along the city's waterfront.
Officials at the XL Center downtown took several precautions to make sure Bieber Fever was the only thing heating up concertgoers Thursday night.
Chris Lawrence, general manager at the center, said fans started lining up and milling around the center's atrium around lunchtime. The center put out extra water stations and had the center's air conditioning cranked all the way up when people packed into the performance
Neither the warm weather nor the traffic seemed to dampen the enthusiasm of Bieber's fans.
Lauren Andrade, Lily Sherbanee and Stephanie Ruggiero came to the city from the Norwich area for the show. And they weren't just there to see him. They wanted to be seen, too. Each of the three 11-year-old girls was wearing a large red bow with flashing lights in hopes that Bieber would notice them among the thousands crowded into the center.
"They're in love with Justin Bieber," said Lauren's mother, Kellyanna Andrade.
A few blocks away, Mortensen Riverfront Plaza was lively. The jazz sounds of electric guitar and drums were in the background as people tried to select something for dinner from a variety of vendors and find seats for the night's fireworks show.
People could even decide to have dessert first if they could catch up with Paul Hammer, who pedaled down the plaza as Megan Hand of Boston handed out free ice cream bars from a carriage attached to the bike.
Hammer runs a pedicab service called Cabike in New Haven. He stopped every few yards to hand out another one of the "Hood Harvey Bars." He was even dressed like the company's founder, Harvey Hood, with a white button-down shirt and red bow tie.
Stifling heat had organizers of the X-treme Scramble Series making big changes to their run that was planned for early evening.
Race officials decided earlier in the week to shorten the course from 3.1 miles to 2 and move it to shady areas along the riverfront. They had multiple water and cooling stations along the course and doubled the medical staff.
But some runners, like Farmington resident Steve Gibbs, said they weren't very worried about the weather.
"I've been training all summer in hot, cold, you name it," said Gibbs, an engineer who usually runs marathons. "You just have to take it easy."
Xavier High School junior Gregson Curtin, 16, of Rocky Hill, won the race, crossing the finish line of the 2-mile course in under 11.5 minutes.
He said hadn't planned to run as hard when he started the race.
"I just saw all of those people ahead of me," he said as he ate an orange popsicle and tried to catch his breath afterward.
"He really doesn't like people being ahead of him," said his mother, Gael Curtin, with a laugh.
Beth Shluger is executive director of the Hartford Marathon Foundation, which organizes the X-treme Scramble. She said organizers wanted to make sure that runners did not over-exert themselves at the event, which was changed from a race to a "fun run."
"Safety is our number one concern," she said.
She said the run normally draws 600 or 700, but she had expected that Thursday night's field would be much smaller because of the weather and other events, like the Bieber concert.
The fireworks, rescheduled from July 4 because of high water levels in the Connecticut River, lit up the sky after sundown. The show was staged by Atlas Pyrovision, gold medalists at the 2012 Montreal International Fireworks Competition.
Sitting on a terrace near the waterfront hours before the first burst of colorful sparks, Hartford resident Santana Rodriguez had found a seemingly perfect spot to watch the fireworks with his 7-year-old son, also named Santana.
Rodriguez said the high temperatures couldn't keep him away.
"I was going to come regardless of the heat, just to get out of the house," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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