(Posted July 27, 2018)
By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
In the early days of National Night Out, residents were encouraged to turn on their porch lights the first Tuesday night of August in support of law enforcement and as a deterrent to crime.
Thirty-five years later, observances have evolved into events designed to bring neighbors together and promote partnerships between communities and first responders.
This year, three Madison County communities are holding National Night Out activities, all on Aug. 7.
This year marks the first time a National Night Out event is taking place at Lake Choctaw. The festivities are set for 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the beach. The band, Counterpart, will perform, and attendees are invited to go swimming. A bounce house, stickers and coloring books will be available to children.
Law enforcement and fire departments will be on hand and, because the lake plays an important role in the lives of area residents, water and boat safety demonstrations are planned.
“I’m excited,” said Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Rosales, who is coordinating the evening of entertainment for people of all ages.
Rosales has some experience at organizing such an event, but not in such a setting. Last year, he worked with the South Charleston Police Department to put on their National Night Out event.
“These events couldn’t be possible without help from community businesses,” Rosales said. “They donate financially, as well as with their services.”
At the end of the evening, a lucky participant will leave with a new bicycle, he added.
In West Jefferson, village Parks and Recreation Director Marci Darlington is putting together an itinerary featuring police and fire demonstrations, free food and ice cream, and artwork. The event is set for 5 to 8 p.m. at the West Jefferson Community Center, 221 S. Center St.
Police officers will use the Jaws of Life to show how they extract victims from vehicle accidents. The fire department will set up their safety house. The structure simulates a house fire and teaches children how to get to safety.
Large vehicles and equipment, including a medicopter, will be set up on the community center lawn. Other activities designed to entertain an anticipated 500 people will take place inside the center.
One of the indoor activities is an art show featuring work by residents.
“Our theme is ‘Everyday Heroes’ and everybody is encouraged to enter,” Darlington said.
Artwork can take any form. Entries are due by Aug. 3. For details, call (740) 490-8317.
New to London’s National Night Out plans is a demonstration by the London Police Department’s police dog, Ygor.
The event, set for 6 to 8 p.m. at Cowling Park on North Main Street, also includes free hot dogs and ice cream, information displays, and a touch-a-truck area where children can get an up-close look at fire engines, medics, wreckers, police cruisers and other vehicles.
“We’re trying to get a lot of different people involved, not just the police department,” said Police Chief Glenn Nicol about participation in this year’s observance.
He noted that donations to the police department and funds from the United Way are helping to cover event costs.
About the purpose of National Night Out, Nicol said, “It’s another way to help build relationships between the community and law enforcement, and to get people out to talk to each other a little bit.”