Something other than music and food will greet New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival attendees this weekend: metal detectors.

In a concession to modern-day reality, all fest-goers will have to pass through metal detectors at entrances to the Fair Grounds, a first in the festival’s 49-year history. 

“It somewhat reflects the times,” Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis said this week. “We don’t want Jazz Fest to be any less safe than anyplace else.”

Overall, he said, Jazz Fest’s security measures “have been way ahead of the curve. But metal detectors are another step.”

How they will affect the wait time for getting into the festival remains to be seen. Tens of thousands of fest-goers pass through the festival gates daily.

Fourteen walk-through metal detectors are stationed at the Sauvage Street pedestrian entrance. The Gentilly Boulevard gates are equipped with 11. Others are positioned throughout the site.

Davis believes delays at the metal detectors will be minimal, and that most patrons — especially those who remove their keys and cell phones — will be able to pass through quickly.

On the back side of each machine, two rows of lights pinpoint exactly where on a person a metal object has been detected. Security guards will then scan that area.

There will be an “express” entrance line for attendees without any bags, as well as an ADA-configured line for people in wheelchairs.

Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York and Washington, D.C., Jazz Fest instituted far more robust security procedures and protocols, including bag searches. More law enforcement officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, were deployed. Festival staffers and emergency officials held crisis control meetings, and planned responses to potential incidents wherever they might occur on the site.

Those ramped-up measures remain in place, Davis said. They include concrete barriers at the Gentilly Boulevard pedestrian entrance meant to stop vehicles from plowing into crowds.

The addition of metal detectors, then, is the next logical step.

“It’s not new in the world, but it’s new at Jazz Fest,” Davis said. “We think people will applaud them. They’ll feel like the festival will be more safe.”

Over the past year, concerts and festivals, like schools, nightclubs and restaurants, have proven vulnerable to attack.

On May 22, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive among fans leaving an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 and injuring hundreds more.

On Oct. 1, a gunman on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas opened fire on the crowd at the nearby Route 91 Harvest Festival. He killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Many major festivals across the country now deploy metal detectors, including southern California’s Coachella and Stagecoach, both of which are run by AEG, the live entertainment company that co-produces Jazz Fest with Davis’ Festival Productions Inc. Locally, the Buku Music & Art Project at Mardi Gras World, also owned in part by AEG, uses them.

The list of prohibited items at Jazz Fest, updated periodically to include such innovations as drones, has always included weapons. But, Davis conceded, some fest-goers inevitably carried guns onto the Fair Grounds.

The metal detectors are a way to enforce a longstanding prohibition.

“We are not in favor of weapons,” Davis said. With metal detectors, “this festival will be a lot more weapons-free. We’ve never had an incident, but ‘weapons-free’ sounds good, better, safer.”

At the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for Saints games and at the Smoothie King Center for concerts and Pelicans games, a concealed-carry permit does not grant the bearer the right to bring arms into the event. Neither will they be permitted inside Jazz Fest.

“We’re leasing private property,” Davis said. “We can control our situation differently than a public space can.”

Ultimately, installing metal detectors is being “proactive,” he said. “But we’ve never had any reason to be alarmed.”

Follow Keith Spera on Twitter, @KeithSpera.

Keith Spera writes about music, culture and his kids.