New London - The Public Works Department is filling potholes, mending cracks in sidewalks and mowing the grass at the gateways of the city.
Volunteers are finishing painting projects and picking up trash that has accumulated in alleys and doorways of empty storefronts.
The city is on full alert, preparing for OpSail and Sailfest, which organizers say could draw up to 900,000 visitors to the free waterfront events beginning Friday and continuing through the weekend.
"We'll be ready for them,'' Public Works Director Tim Hanser said last week.
The city is also making sure that parking and street barricades will be in place, that there will be plenty of trash cans available, and that garbage trucks will be able to move freely among the crowds to keep the city clean.
Events organizers, municipal employees and volunteers are finalizing plans and scrambling to get the city in shape for OpSail, which will feature tall ships, Navy ships and touring ships; and for Sailfest, the city's annual waterfront event that includes food, music, rides, crafts and roaming entertainment. Sailfest has been a summer mainstay in the city for more than 30 years.
The highlight of the weekend is the Saturday night fireworks show, set off in the middle of the Thames River and sponsored by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation.
Barbara Neff, who is in charge of Sailfest, said her event draws an estimated 300,000 people each year, and OpSail officials are predicting the city could see another 600,000 visiting the ships.
Neff is working with the city's public works department to see that all electrical needs will be met for musical acts, putting together information packages for vendors, and making sure local merchants have parking passes.
"We've done all the planning we can,'' Neff said. "We cannot control the weather so we don't worry about it, but I tell my committee, 'When you stand in the street and see the kids with all the smiles on their faces and the adults with all the smiles and the people at all the music stages enjoying themselves - that's why we do it.'"
Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio praised city employees, those from nearby communities, the state, and private groups and businesses who have pulled together to prepare for the 22 ships that will enter New London Harbor in a Parade of Sail Saturday morning and for the festivities that will follow.
"It's an all-hands-on-deck event,'' he said. "Everyone is doing their best, and I think it's going to be a great event for New London."
Organizers for OpSail also are working on final arrangements, coordinating parking, and recruiting volunteers to help man parking lots. Satellite parking with shuttle buses will be available at lots outside the downtown area and buses will keep people moving between Fort Trumbull, City Pier in downtown New London and State Pier.
"There are a million and one things to do,'' said Bruce MacDonald, spokesman for OpSailCT2012. "And we're doing all the things you'd expect need to be done in the eleventh hour of such a major event.''
For Candace Devendittis, owner of Dev's on Bank restaurant and a city resident, the upcoming festivities have been an opportunity for her to pull together volunteers to spruce up downtown.
"Paint the Town" volunteers were honored last week during a reception on Water Street, where six large images of jazz musicians were unveiled. The 5-by-6-foot prints, which have been treated to withstand the elements, cover six windows on the back sides of empty Bank Street buildings so boaters will see them as they sail into city.
"People who live here can take pride in New London,'' said Devendittis, who helped organize cleanups of Bank and Water streets and Eugene O'Neill Drive; painting parties to spruce up the water side of buildings along South Water Street; and weeding details along Blinman.
"It's evolved into a much bigger event,'' she said of the Paint the Town group. "People are young and old who are involved. And they really want to help."