JERSEY CITY — New Jersey's largest Fourth of July celebration is expected to get larger this year, thanks in no small part to the addition of a talented, but sometimes controversial, performer to this year's festivities.
Snoop Dogg will headline Jersey City's Independence Day festival. It moved last year from its traditional location at Liberty State Park to Exchange Place, at the heart of Jersey City's business district, due to a state budget crisis.
This year, the festival will stay at Exchange Place, and is anticipated to be about 40 percent larger. Snoop Dogg's marquee status is expected to drive that jump in attendance, but he may also spark further controversy.
"It's going to be a big crowd," said Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop, who specifically cited the hip hop legend as the impetus for the larger audience. "He has for 30 years been in the kind of conversation here. It's gonna be a great show."
By contrast, the president of the state's National Organization for Women chapter said that Snoop's presence would be more welcome if he made one major change.
"He needs to apologize for what he did," NOW President Deb Huber told PIX11 News, by phone. "He needs to accept responsibility for having said terrible things about women."
Huber specifically cited interviews Snoop has given in recent years, in which he's said he has no regrets about a career in which, in the past, he's had lyrics that were insulting to women. He's also made some top-selling porn videos.
In the past decade or so, however, Snoop Dogg has founded a youth football league, made comments in favor of women's and gay rights, has launched a gospel music career, and has starred in a cooking show with Martha Stewart.
"He's a person like any of us," said Fulop. "The goal is to celebrate the music component of his life, and that's what we're doing."
The question is whether or not that's good enough to attract the crowds Jersey City is hoping for.
"People grow up, they move on, they learn, they mature," said Linda Shaw, who was visiting Jersey City from Chicago. "He's done a lot of positive things."
"Nobody's perfect, right?" Joe Curatalo said. He lives in Hoboken, and had not heard that Snoop Dogg was going to be headlining in neighboring Jersey City. He said he now plans to go to the Fourth of July festivities just because of Snoop. "Everybody makes mistakes, it happens," he said. "We'll still come out to support him."
Leah Coston, who also lives near the concert venue, echoed that. "He's done a lot of stuff," she told PIX11 News. "But he's unapologetically himself, so you can't go wrong with that."
At least one local resident, Sean McCoy, told PIX11 News that he was concerned about potential violence related to Snoop Dogg's presence. "There could be some gang [activity]," McCoy said. "Snoop is a Crip. There'd better be good security."
Mayor Fulop said that he's planning on having police and infrastructure in place to handle a crowd of about 200,000 people, up from roughly 140,000 last year, for the free concert, and its adjacent festival of food and activities.