At a time when many Americans are questioning the safety of their communities, towns across the nation — including Kenyon — gathered Aug. 6 to host a National Night Out (also called Night to Unite) party to bring people together.
The event is an annual tradition held the first Tuesday in August, where neighbors gather outdoors to get to know one another and local law enforcement. In Kenyon, residents stopped by outside the police station throughout the evening to enjoy a free meal, get a close-up look at a police car and fire truck, and chat with both friends and strangers.
For many kids, the highlight of the evening was taking a turn at the fire hose to knock down traffic cones. The fire trucks are a main draw in Kenyon, according to Jeremy Eggert of the Kenyon Fire Department.
“When the kids are here, they always check out the trucks. Every little kid wants to get into a fire truck,” said Eggert.
Rebecca Sjolander, who served food during the event, said she’s helped out for more than 10 years. It’s a small party compared to some, she said, but turnout is steady each year.
Some attendees said they saw the event posted on Facebook; others saw the fire trucks and were curious. On a warm, sunny summer evening, many just wanted to be outside.
“It’s something for the kids to do,” said Stephanie Brezina.
Brezina had started a conversation with a new neighbor, following the spirit of the original National Night Out in the 1980s, when neighborhoods picked an evening to keep the lights on and sit outside their homes.
Members of the Kenyon Police Department also interacted with residents during the event, engaging in conversation and handing out crime prevention fliers. A major goal of National Night Out is to increase visibility of local police so that residents view them as approachable, leading to greater community connections and safety.
It’s also an opportunity to show off police equipment so people are familiar with it (especially when it’s paid for in taxpayer money), said Lee Sjolander, Kenyon police chief.
“We’re very proud of the equipment that we have,” he said.
According to Sjolander, Kenyon’s National Night Out has only missed one year in recent history.
“We love hosting it,” he said.