The Meridianite Picnic drew in thousands to Highland Park. Laughter and smiles cover the park, everywhere you look, but you also can't help but notice the ever-present security remaining constantly vigilant to keep the public safe. Police were out patrolling the area both on foot and on bicycles.
"We got the bike units out," Det. Dareall Thompson says. "Due to a lot of people being out here on front, we're able to maneuver between foot traffic, so security out here right now is our top priority."
But making people feel safe at Highland Park isn't an easy task. Recent shootings and violence in the area have given it a reputation as a dangerous place. Even Meridianites who are visiting the city say they've heard the stories.
"I remember what this used to be like," Meridian native John Young says. "Very safe. But they tell me things have changed a little bit. I can't relax, may have to look over my shoulder every once in a while."
Mayor Percy Bland says that's an issue that's soon to change. He says they're going to step up efforts like this security today to hold more positive activities in the park, and keep crime out.
"Highland Park, we have had situations out here, but we're going to make Highland Park a safe park," he says. "It's the most historic park in the city of Meridian, and we're going to continue to do things in this park to make people safe."
And so far, it's been effective. Det. Thompson says the bike patrols have been a useful tool in keeping people out of harm's way. And those out picnicking say they've noticed.
"I came to one of these functions in the past, and I hear about he crime and stuff, so I stopped coming over here, but now this is a good day," Meridianite Benita Starkley says.
Starkley says the security's presence has made the picnic a more pleasant experience for everyone there.
"Today is the day," she sings. "You will feel safe, you will be safe, hey!"