National Night Out: Food, Fun, Community
Rev. Timothy Chase was driving home to Dodge Center, thinking about how there was no community-wide National Night Out event planned this year.
He decided to change that.
“And so, here we are,” he said Aug. 1 as a large crowd enjoyed food, fun and fellowship on the grounds of his church, Grace Lutheran. “It’s way more than I ever thought it would be. It was
a last-minute idea, and so everything is falling together very well.”
Visitors enjoyed free hot dogs, chips, lemonade, cookies and cotton candy – “Classic cook-out stuff ,” Chase said - on the annual night dedicated to community-building, neighborhood camaraderie, and promoting police- community partnerships (see natw.org).
Kids were everywhere, playing in an in atable “bounce house” and investigating a Dodge Center re truck, a Dodge County Sheriff’s Department vehicle and several others, including a huge John Deere tractor, while frequently tooting their horns.
The mood was light on a nice summer evening in southeast Minnesota.
“I love it,” said Hailley DeRaad, Kasson, visiting with her niece, Valyn Harris, 4, and nephew Vinton Harris, 6. “We came back to visit today for National Night Out, and we get to see our first responders and semis and some tractors, and the kids get an opportunity to experience these vehicles in a positive way. It’s a great opportunity to connect with community members.”
“It’s nice that Pastor Chase put it together and was able to get this much stuff going on – the bounce house and the food and the cotton candy, and getting some vehicles here,” Dodge Center Fire Chief Dave Kenworthy said. “It gets the community out, to gather and socialize.”
Kenworthy said the youngsters seemed to enjoy having their photos taken with the emergency vehicles.
They did have plenty of energy. “Cotton candy’s kickin’ in!” he said. His daughter, Jenna, 11, said it was indeed a fun event.
“And it’s cool. Because not all the time do you get to have a party,” she said. “It means you can meet new friends, and play around with new kids.”
Chase said he wanted to do something for the community, to get folks out and about.
“I was happy that the emergency services people showed up, and especially the Sheriff’s department, just to give people a chance to know them and build good relationships,” he said.
And what did the good pastor hear from all those visitors?
“I hear laughter,” Chase said. “That’s the best thing. And you know what? I’m seeing some of the adults climbing up into some of these vehicles, too. So everybody’s having a good time.”
National Night Out also was a hit in West Concord.
A good crowd gathered around the swimming pool, bolstered by classic rock ‘n roll music and ice cream oats – your choice of root beer, orange or strawberry, courtesy of the West Concord Cardinal Club.
Emergency vehicles were on hand for the kids. And a free movie, “Beauty and the Beast,” was scheduled downtown at the former Hardware Hank store.
“It’s great seeing the Cardinal Club being out here and helping with this, and parents are pretty involved, getting the swimming out there, said Corporal Mike Erdman of the West Concord police, as he enjoyed an orange oat.
“It’s a great activity for summer. We love being out here with the ambulance and the re truck and the police, giving kids tours, handing out stickers, and just getting the community interested in what we’re doing and come together,” he said. It’s awesome.”
The gathering was all about music, food, fun and free swimming, said Kristen Bachman, a West Concord City Councilor whose husband, Neal, serves with the re department. “It’s just a fun opportunity for the community to get out,” she said. “It started out with a little rain, but it’s nice to get to see the kids all getting out and having fun and enjoying the amenities that we have.” Karen Peterson, scooping ice cream for the Cardinal Club, is well versed on the best part of the whole deal.
“The kids,” she said with a smile. “I was a teacher. Seeing happy children is always uplifting.”
Kids sprayed water and were sprayed, city councilors brought food, and National Night Out meant summer fun in Mantorville as well.
“What I’ve heard, this year sounds like it was another good at-bat,” said Mayor Chuck Bradford, who was unable to attend. “It’s kind of an informal environment, and everyone’s having fun. It’s just a good opportunity to talk to people and see what their concerns are, too.”