By Sherrie Norris
The upper parking area of Watauga High School in Boone was transformed into a huge community block party on Tuesday, Aug. 2, as individuals of all ages and walks of life gathered for National Night Out.
From 6-8 p.m., Watauga County’s Third Annual National Night Out was among thousands of similar events held across the country in an effort to bring communities together. The main purpose, and one that was obviously fulfilled locally this week, is to enhance the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement, while bringing back a true sense of community as we once knew it.
It’s been happening across America since 1984, but only for the last three years has the High Country area participated in the effort.
“We were pretty amazed at the turnout,” said Boone Police Department’s Community Resource Officer, Kat Eller, who came alongside Watauga County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Casey Miller to help coordinate this year’s event.
“The energy was fantastic,” Eller described. “Just to see our community come out to show support of local law enforcement like we saw happen was so encouraging.”
Miller, who initially jumpstarted the event — with the blessing of his superiors after attending events off the mountain a few years ago — was ecstatic as he described on Wednesday, “Last night was a huge success. I couldn’t be happier for the way it turned out . . . Everyone there seemed to really have a good time.”
Miller was also quick to thank Eller for all that she did to help make it happen. “ I couldn’t have done it without Kat’s help, along with our many volunteers, sponsors, donors and the community, as a whole. I just want to take this opportunity to send out a huge thank you to everyone who came out to support our local law enforcement and first responders. We truly live in an amazing community.”
Additionally, the duo expressed special appreciation to their fellow officers from surrounding areas, including those from Ashe and Caldwell counties, who came to support their efforts. “And we had a group of dancers (Bailey Mountain Cloggers) from Mars Hill who were in town helping with a dance camp and decided to join us, as well,” Eller said.
Eller and Miller were appreciative of the non-profit organizations that shared information about the services they provide, as well as all the entertainers who gave of their time and talent, spanning a wide spectrum of skill and diversity. “We had everything from mountain cloggers to Latin dancers, and they were all incredible.”
To see the variety of entities represented — “interacting and communicating” Eller said, fulfilled the purpose of National Night Out. “It truly does take a village, and we have the best!”
National Night Out locally was everything a community could hope for, including: Boone Moose Lodge’s special presentation to local officers of their cuddly Tommy Moose dolls for children in stressful or traumatic situations; Back Our Blue volunteers and other organizations sharing what they do to support local law enforcement; memorial tributes to fallen officers — and their family members as visible participants; free hot dogs from Walmart, High Country Rodeo’s mechanical bull rides, bouncy houses and Boone PD’s Detective Jake Harkey willingly being “dunked” time after time for Special Olympics . . .and so much more!
Both Eller and Miller are already anticipating next year’s event and are appreciative of input, from those who attended and participated, on how they can make it even better.
It is the hope of Miller and Eller that National Night Out will continue to enhance what they and their 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.
It’s not too early to help plan for 2023.For more information on how you can become involved in upcoming events, to make a donation or volunteer your time and talent, email Miller at [email protected].
Photos by Sherrie Norris