Kingston readies to welcome Tragically Hip home

As thousands of fans of The Tragically Hip gather to bid an emotionally charged farewell to their favourite band Saturday night, Kingston police will be out in force making sure everyone has a memorable night — for all the right reasons.

City, police prepare for inundation of Hip faithful for historic show

The Tragically Hip, seen here performing in Vancouver, B.C., as part of their Man Machine Poem tour, will play Kingston, Ont. this Saturday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

As thousands of fans of The Tragically Hip gather to bid an emotionally charged farewell to their favourite band Saturday night, Kingston police will be out in force making sure everyone has a memorable night — for all the right reasons.

Kingston — the Canadian rockers' home town — is the final stop on The Hip's Man Machine Poem tour.

Emotions have been high amid Hip devotees across the country since July 22 in Victoria, when the beloved band kicked off the tour — their first since revealing in late May that frontman Gord Downie has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive, incurable form of brain cancer.

Seventy to 80 police officers will be working the Saturday show, and surveillance cameras will be watching the area, according to Kingston police Const. Steve Koopman.

"We will have members of our tactical team working, we will potentially have plain-clothes officers as well," said Koopman.

"We hope it is a fun-filled event ... but at the same time we have to be aware that some people can take advantage of an open venue with a large amount of people in it, in a relatively confined space."

The City of Kingston expects to host more than 25,000  fans of the hometown heroes, even though the Rogers K-Rock Centre only holds 6,000. Every hotel room in the city is booked and the streets will be crammed with Hip fans.

"It's hard to describe, the anticipation, the excitement — this is one of the biggest events that has ever occurred in our city," said Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson.
The Tragically Hip concert will be screened live at Kingston's Market Square, where more than 20,000 fans are expected to converge on Saturday night. (Tourism Kingston)
"We have brought in police officers from Kingston and surrounding municipalities. We have brought in security just to make sure everything is safe and secure... We'll be able to handle anything that comes."

The concert is sold out, of course. But the show will also be screened at a giant outdoor viewing party in Kingston's Market Square. Extra washroom facilities be set up in the area to accommodate the massive crowd, and free public transportation is available to encourage residents to leave their cars at home.

​The mayor said the city is doing all it can to make sure that both the fans and the band have a memorable experience at what is sure to be an emotional event.

"It's an opportunity for us to show our support for The Hip as their hometown," said Paterson. "We see them not just as a band, we see them as family."