NEW YORK — Lightning in the area prompted the evacuation of Central Park’s Homecoming Concert Saturday evening just less than three hours into the star-studded show.
The weather, though not nearly as severe as what’s expected once Henri arrives Saturday night into Sunday, was enough to shut the event down.
Officials urged evacuations, insisting concertgoers leave the area and seek shelter or head to their vehicles. An audio message said the event had been canceled, though there was still a possibility that guests could be welcomed back and that the concert could resume — which, naturally, created confusion.
NYPD officials said there was not an emergency situation, but also asked people to exit the park.
For at least the daylight portion of the concert, the sounds of song were ringing out from Central Park, with more than 20,000 coming out for the superstar-laden concert meant to celebrate New York City’s recovery from the coronavirus.
“New York is the greatest city in the world, the city that never sleeps,” local resident Ohimai Amaize said. “But during the pandemic, things slowed down and the city lost its vibe. This concert is a way to bring back the vibe and say we’re back.”
The event was supposed to be a five hour event but ended about two and a half hours early thanks to an early arrival from parts of Hurricane Henri.
The New York Philharmonic, Andrea Bocelli, Carlos Santana, Jennifer Hudson, Polo G, LL Cool J and others performed for the packed (and seemingly-constantly growing) crowd.
Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Paul Simon, Maluma, the Killers and other headliners did not get to take the stage; the evacuation announcement came during Barry Manilow’s set.
NYPD helped evacuate nearly 25,000 people who came out for the superstar sounds of song that blared from Central Park.
Saturday’s event came after a series of hip-hop concerts in the last week at outdoor venues around the city.
Despite the joyful intention, the concert took place when there are worries about the contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
New York City over the past week has averaged just under 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 a day, according to state statistics. That’s up from just under 200 cases per day in late June. Only some 54% of all city residents are fully vaccinated against the virus.
That’s in addition to Hurricane Henri.
Still, the event began Saturday evening without a hitch — and right on time (though that wouldn’t be the headline of the night).
Those who attended the concert, the majority of tickets for which were handed out for free, had to show proof of vaccination.
“They’ve done the right thing — having people vaccinated and having prove, doing it a safe way — and it’s good to have people back together and listen to music,” said concert-goer Grant Jackson.
The mayor hoped that the vaccine requirement of at least one dose was a way to incentivize New Yorkers to roll up their sleeves and get their shots.