By Sherrie Norris
Two years ago, Watauga County officially joined the initiative known as National Night Out. It was a success with good community involvement, and organizers hoped that it would become an annual event.
Then, COVID-19 happened and stopped it in its tracks before it really got off the ground.
But now, plans are underway for the county’s second event and it’s shaping up to be fun, informative and reflective, said coordinator Sgt. Casey Miller with the Watauga County Sheriff’s Department.
Miller tells us that local law enforcement agencies will be joining forces with thousands of other communities across the country for National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 3. The event is scheduled to take place from 4-7:30 p.m. at Watauga High School in Boone.
Since 1984, 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 Miller , Watauga County is working hard to forge these relationships, and said, “It’s something we need, especially this year, after all that has happened. We hope everyone will come out and be a part of it.”
It was after attending regional events several years ago that Miller’s interest in the initiative began, and with the support of Sheriff L.D. Hagaman and Major Kelly Redmon, he decided to pursue something similar here in Watauga County.
The response from all county and municipal departments was encouraging from the start, Miller added, and he anticipates even more participation this year than before, including that from surrounding counties.
Miller said he is hoping that local businesses and organizations will come together, also, to donate food and services to ensure its success.
“We’ve already lined up fire, rescue and law enforcement vehicles, with a special treat around 4 p.m. when a helicopter is expected to fly in. We will have K-9 demonstrations, a bounce house and craft area for the kids, food trucks, music with George Wilson, and exhibits from local nonprofit organizations, including the Bat Mobile from NC Department of Health and Human Services, and Street Safe, the latter of which will conduct a seatbelt simulation.
A display of memorial vehicles will be available to honor the county’s fallen officers. “Unfortunately, there will be two more this year,” Miller said.
Miller said he would like to thank officers Kat Eller and Ferrin Page with Boone Police Department who are helping organize various aspects of the event.
“There is still much work to be done, but we believe in the community and we know that everything will come together in time,” he added.
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.
More About National Night Out
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 event is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.
The first annual National Night Out took place in August 1984 and 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.
For more information, to make a donation or volunteer for the event, email Miller at [email protected]
Scenes from the inaugural National Night Out in Watauga County in August, 2019. Photos submitted.