Stow Neighbors Come Out to Enjoy National Night Out
Families and friends enjoy games and prizes while meeting or greeting police and fire departments as part of national community campaign.
Children were playing Guitar Hero, running through the fire hose and sitting in police cars. In between all the fun, children and their parents mingled with neighbors, police officers and fire fighters.
Tuesday night was National Night Out, an annual nationwide crime prevention event founded by the National Association of Town Watch. More than 37 million neighbors in more than 15,000 communities from all 50 states hosted block parties, cookouts and parades with safety officials.
Stow Police Chief Louis Dirker said the night was an opportunity to get social.
"This is an opportunity for the community to migle with us and see a different side of us than they usually do," he said, adding officers looks forward to the event all year long. He reveled in the opportunity to see his family and hold his red haired granddaughter.
This was Stow's sixth year participating in the neighborhood watch, and Stow Youth Services Director Kathy Christ said the event keeps growing. She estimated 700 people came out Tuesday night, up from 500 last year.
"The biggest thing we hope to accomplish is for people to get to know their neighbors and the police forces that are out there protecting them," Christ said.
From the looks of it, the safety officers were having just as much fun.
"Look at the kids just running through (the hose)," cooed firefighter Sandy Ray, who became a photographer with her iPhone. "I'll probably take several photos tonight.
"Kids and water always seem to be a hit. The best part for me is seeing a lot of familiar faces around the community and seeing kids having fun."
As Ray continued snapping photos, an older couple approached her.
"Thank you for what you do," said the man. Amid the festivites, the couple walked around to thank police officers for their service.
"Most people thank God they don't come into contact with us," Dirker said. "This is an opportunity for them to see what services are available."
In addition to a bounce house and slide, there was a Stow Fire Truck, a Stow Police Cruiser, the Stow D.A.R.E vehicle, the Summit County Metro SWAT vehicle, and two vehicles from the Ohio National Guard.
Applebee's donated hot dogs and buns, and Target, a national sponsor, donated drinks, chips and family-oriented raffle prizes. They also donated 20 volunteers to man inflatable bounces and paint arms and faces with butterflies, among other custom designs.
"I think everybody's having fun," Christ said as she watched children in line for the slide. "If they haven't come, they should come next year."