Behind the Scenes with Jack Bakey
Jack Bakey is the Coordinator of Public Safety for the City of Cambridge. During the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, he works with the police to manage parking, vendors, and crowds in Cambridge. He has been involved with public safety at the celebration since its beginning in 1974.
Q: What are you doing the day before the event?
A: For a number of days before, I’m interacting with people, dealing with the surprises that come every year. You really never know what you’re going to deal with year to year. I’m just a little fireman who is here to put out the bushfires that come up.
Q: What are you doing the day of the event?
A: In the morning, I start watching Memorial Drive as vendors are coming in to see that they are working according to our plan. I work with the Cambridge Police on that, and by 3:00pm we start setting up the Unified Command Center on the Cambridge side.
Q: When you hear “Fourth of July,” what do you think of?
A: Happiness is too simple a word. It’s a unique experience. I think it’s the amount of people who congregate and just come out to enjoy a night. It’s a nice free evening and a lot of people take advantage of it.
Q: What is your favorite part of the Fourth of July celebration?
A: The music. The fireworks are spectacular also. And again, I go back to the people. I usually walk out around 9:30 or quarter of 10, when it is filling up, and I just love seeing everyone getting excited and expecting the fireworks.
Q: If you could meet anyone in history, who would you meet?
A: Harry Truman because he seemed like just a regular guy. Having never met Harry Truman and being from his era, he is interesting to me because he gets credit for a lot of tough decisions in history. He seems like kind of a movie character to me, coming from a small town and then doing a great job as president. He’s someone I’d just like to talk to.
Q: What are the three objects you can’t live without on the Fourth?
A: Water, my cell phone, and energy.
Q: How did you get involved with the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular?
A: I was originally with the police and we were always detailed there on the Fourth of July, especially with the fireworks in 1974, the first year. Then, over the years, I worked up until I retired. After that, I went to work for the Fourth of July as a Cambridge consultant. So, I’ve been there continuously for as long as David Mugar has been there. The idea for the fireworks and the cannons came from David Mugar and Arthur Fiedler when they wanted to show the crowd something amazing, and I’ve been there since then.
Q: What effect has working on the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular had on you?
A: I love the people. I go back each year to see how many people come out, and I like seeing how the crowd grows to hundreds of thousands of people. I also do the same thing each year. Every Fourth of July, I judge the crowds the moment the fireworks end and time how long the crowd takes to vacate the area with no incidence. It is usually about 8 minutes. It is just a steady stream of people. It is all very orderly, and that is unique to me.
Q: What are you thinking/feeling on the day of the show, after all of your preparation is done?
A: Thank God for letting me be around for another year. It gives me something to look forward to for the next event. Policemen and workers retire and interns leave, but equally good people always come back and fit the mold perfectly. It’s so unique to this event.