As more than 200 local volunteers prepare to welcome 80 severely wounded veterans and their families to the Lowcountry this weekend, Beaufort police are gearing up for the arrival of more than 5,000 people for a pair of concerts downtown to benefit the injured service members.
A spokesman for the police department said the Beaufort Water Festival and other annual events have made planning for the third annual Lt. Dan Weekend, including a concert Saturday in Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park featuring actor Gary Sinise, a routine affair.
"It's fairly cookie-cutter for us at this point," Capt. Robert Carson said. "We have 14 officers scheduled to work downtown on Friday and Saturday nights. We will have officers at the gate ... roaming inside the event, ... and in some of the neighborhoods nearby where people will be parking, particularly on Saturday night, we'll have officers patrolling on foot and in cars."
Carson added that two marine officers will patrol the Beaufort River near the park's seawall.
The cost of policing the private event was included in about $10,000 of in-kind services the city of Beaufort agreed to provide to event organizers last month. The city also waived $4,400 in fees for the two concerts.
This weekend's events include the Vetpalooza Military Tribute Concert tonight in the park. On Saturday, a bike ride and 5K run at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort is scheduled as well as a concert by Sinise's 13-piece Lt. Dan Band, which is expected to draw thousands of fans downtown.
The concert and other events are being hosted by the Beaufort nonprofit Independence Fund to raise money for robotic wheelchairs, therapy and other care for veterans in attendance and across the country.
An event spokesman said advance ticket sales for Saturday night's concert have exceeded last year's numbers, and organizers expect a large turnout.
"We have sold about 1,100 tickets in advance, and we expect the majority of people will be buying their tickets on the day of the event," Dick Clarke said. "We expect there to be about 3,500 people at the concert (Saturday), which is about what we had last year. We also expect between 1,500 and 2,000 people for the Vetpalooza concert on Friday night."
The park can safely hold about 5,000 people, according to city officials.