In the middle of his demonstration at the Art All Night festival in Trenton last year, Daniel Lapidow of Hebrew Hammer Blacksmith was asked to leave his tools and go home.
By the time he got home, the shooting that injured 22 people and killed one last June had likely already begun.
Lapidow and others are returning to the annual festival this weekend. He is dispelling any fears or doubts, and said he knew he had to return if the festival did as well.
“I told them, ‘If this comes back again, I will be here again,’” Lapidow said. “At the end of the day, I knew I had to do it. For the city, for the craft, and for the art community.”
But for Art All Night’s 13th year of bringing together artists, performers, and crafters at the Roebling Wire Works, there will be some security changes and extra precautions to ensure safety, while organizers try to maintain the essence of the event.
Art All Night will — at least this year — lose the “all night” aspect. The festival, which is free and open to the public, starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, but will close to new entries at midnight, and will close at 1 a.m. Sunday and re-open at 7 a.m., concluding at 3 p.m.
Lauren Otis, executive director of Artworks Trenton, the nonprofit arts center that hosts the festival, said plans for the new security measures have been in the works for months. He said they “never once” thought of canceling the event and instead worked to ensure attendees would feel safe.
“We’ve been working for many months with the city and with law enforcement on a security plan that’s been signed off on. We’ve had independent risk management consultants and security consultants sign off on it,” Otis said.
Otis said changes will also include a full perimeter fence and entrances with security checks.
“We like to describe those security checks as anything nowadays that you have to go through if you go to a live sporting event or a music concert,” he said.
Police will also close the streets outside of the event and patrol inside and outside the venue.
“Once you go through security and you’re inside, you’ll see the same wonderful Art All Night with all the activities that we normally have, and our big art show, but there will also be security, and that will be the biggest change,” Otis said. “We wanted to give volunteers, attendees, our whole Art All Night family as much comfort as possible.”
Lapidow said while he was upset the festival would not go on throughout the night, “it’s better than not having the event at all.”
“It’s horrible what happened, but it shouldn’t stop the community from coming together,” Lapidow said, frustrated with comments from people vowing to never return to the festival. “The people who will be there this year are people who really care about the community and the arts.”
The event is important to Trenton, and people take “real pride in the city,” Otis said. This year’s festival comes in the wake of a particularly rough period — over Memorial Day weekend, 16 people were shot, and New Jersey’s attorney general and U.S. attorney recently announced a new partnership to fight crime in the Garden State’s capital.