By Sherrie Norris
Thanks to the efforts of local law enforcement, Watauga County will be joining forces with thousands of other communities across the country for National Night Out on August 6.
The inaugural event is scheduled to take place from 5-8 p.m. on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone at the Peacock lot, across from the Schaeffer Center on Rivers Street in Boone.
For 36 years, National Night Out has been bringing communities together to enhance the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement — while bringing back a true sense of community as we once knew it.
According to event coordinator Sgt. Casey Miller with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, it’s time for Watauga County to get on board.
“Banner Elk and Lenoir both have these nights out, which I attended last year,” Miller said. “I came back pretty excited about what I had experienced, and with the support of Sheriff Hagaman and Major Redmon, I decided to pursue something similar here in Watauga County.”
The response from all county and municipal departments has been encouraging, he added, and all will be participating.
More About National Night Out
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.
Millions of neighbors take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide on the first Tuesday in August. Texas and a few other areas celebrate on the first Tuesday in October.
The first annual National Night Out, occurring in August 1984, involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states; the concept was introduced by an already established network of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups, state and regional crime prevention associations and volunteers across the nation.
The need for such gatherings, however, was actually recognized years earlier with the vision of one man in Pennsylvania.
The event quickly grew to become a celebration beyond just front porch vigils and symbolic efforts amongst neighbors to send a message of neighborhood camaraderie. Neighborhoods across the nation began to host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and more. After nearly four decades, it is estimated that 38 million people in 16,000 communities across the country currently participate in this annual event.
And Now, in Boone
With Watauga County now part of this nationwide initiative, it is Miller’s hope, on behalf of the entire local law enforcement community, that families and neighbors will come together to make this inaugural event an enjoyable and informative evening.
With event planning still in the early stages, Miller said he is hoping that local businesses and organizations will come together to donate food and services to ensure its success. Also, that emergency service agencies will get involved, liking it to the annual spring event held in the same location.
“We’ve already lined up some (donated) food items from Walmart, two bounce houses for the kids donated by Farmer’s Rent-All, sound system and recorded music, thanks to George Wilson, and a number of exhibits, including the Street Safe Program’s seatbelt convincer.”
Miller explained how the seatbelt simulation enables individuals to experience the actual force generated during a 5-10 mph collision, and that afterward, passengers realize the value of the restraint provided by the seat belt and gain a new respect for the protection that seat belts can provide.
A car show, of sorts, Miller described, will feature vehicles from various participating agencies, with kids picking a “favorite” as the winner.
“We hope to have a wide range of emergency vehicles on display, and hopefully a medical helicopter, as well,” he said.
There is still much work to be done, but Miller believes in the community and knows everything will come together in time.
Donations, especially of food and snacks, will be greatly appreciated.
It is Miller’s hope that National Night Out will further enhance what he and his fellow officers have been trying to do, especially in recent years, and that is to unite neighborhoods and law enforcement in more positive, compassionate circumstances.
For more information or to make a donation, email Miller at [email protected].