A nationwide annual event, National Night Out is meant to increase awareness about police programs in communities, such as drug prevention, town watch, neighborhood watch, and other anti-crime efforts.
The events are typically organized by block watches, nonprofit organizations, companies, and police departments. These events can be as simple as backyard cookouts or as complex as full-blown festivals like one on the west side of Columbus, Ohio.
Here in Riverbank, an industrious group of residents and businesspeople organized the largest ever such event, in Silva Park, on Tuesday, Aug. 6. The day is celebrated in August across most of the country, but in Texas, it’s held in October.
Riverbank folks like Ryan Leighton, Greg Bernardi, Lana Clayton and Jillian Avara, and many others, pulled it together, reportedly in just a few weeks. And they say it was an “epic success.”
Riverbank Police Services Chief Erin Kiely said it was the largest one held in Riverbank since they consolidated their efforts in one location a few years ago.
In the past, police, fire, ambulance and community organizations would caravan across town, visiting each participating neighborhood, gathering during the evening, sometimes splitting into two groups to cover all sites before the evening was over.
Kiely decided several years ago to hold the event in just one location, hopefully allowing more people to be able to spend more time being able to talk with the first responders gathered. Those efforts were originally held at Community Center Park, taking advantage of the shade provided there by some of the city trees.
After several years, those efforts have now expanded to the much larger Silva Park.
Organizer Ryan Leighton complimented Bernardi, Clayton and Avara, calling them “the true backbone to this event.”
He listed the many individuals and organizations that participated, assisting in making it the successful event that it was.
He also was pleased with participation from the Riverbank Police Services officers and management, Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Prevention District personnel, including members of SCFF Local 3399, and PHI Medical Helicopter.
The medical helicopter not only was available for visitors to look at and inside of, but they got to watch it fly in and out of the drainage basin next to the park proper.
Some other participants included Pina Coco Shaved Ice, a popular stop on the warm evening. A bounce house was set up for the children by Esperanza Party Rentals of Riverbank. Of course, the installed park equipment provided lots of choices for children wishing to just play.
Leighton especially thanked SaveMart in Riverbank for providing the meat that was barbecued.
“I hope all of the community who came out tonight had fun,” Leighton said. “Please support those who supported us. We have a few things planned for our very near future to bring our community together more.”
Meanwhile, there was at least one other neighborhood doing its own celebrating, and with success of its own.
While the main troops were setting up and starting the evening in Silva Park, the Police Services crew was visiting at the corner of Heritage Manor and Crossroads Road, in North Landing.
There, in addition to a large contingent of police deputies, were gathered members of the S.T.A.R.S. volunteer unit, and members of the Sheriff’s Explorer Post 226 unit. Also present were Mayor Richard O’Brien and Vice Mayor Darlene Barber-Martinez. They arrived about 6 p.m., traveling on to Silva Park at about 7 p.m.
The celebration there was well under way by that time, and deputies and others arriving at that time were hard pressed to find an easy place to park for the remainder of the evening.