National Night Out is, first and foremost, a party! It is also designed to send a message: You can stop crime in your neighborhood and your community through vigilance. National Night Out in Centralia began in 1986 when the police department’s Community Policing team held its first event at Washington Park. It was small then with only about 80 people in attendance but it has grown significantly with this year’s festivities including a live rock band, jump houses, free hotdogs, popcorn, cotton candy and lots and lots of ice cold water on a hot summer day. Washington Park is a beautiful setting with lots of shade trees and cool grass to sit on while watching all the party has to offer.
Centralia Amateur Radio Emergency Services took part in the static display of emergency vehicles which included CPD’s command van, its MRAP armored SWAT vehicle, a police car, an antique Washington State Patrol car, the Sheriff’s department’s boat and, of course, our own amateur radio communications van.
Comm II was jumping! It was, by far, the most popular vehicle – well, ok, aside from the armored SWAT vehicle – with swarms of kids pushing their way into the van just to be able to talk on the radio. With one radio operator in the van, we had to station three others willing to talk with the kids on the other end of the radio just to keep up. They ran us ragged! ARES volunteers showed them how to hold the microphone, how to push the button and coached them on what to say, if they needed it. Most kids gave their name, age, what grade they were going into, what their favorite color was and how many brothers and sisters they had. One little girl – age 4 by the way – with bright red hair and a face full of freckles, just couldn’t keep still as she jumped up and down while she talked on the radio. What fun!
Several of our team did a fabulous job handling the kids and radios in the communications van. We threw John, AD6KT, into the deep end of the pool and he handled the majority of the kids and did a great job. Outside, Evelyn, KE7ACI, Jim, K7CEX, Paul, KE7PCB, and Marvin, N6XML took turns trying to keep up. Even Ernesto, KI7GOI, a prospective new member, helped handle kids as they tried to push their way into the van and got a good taste of what we do at community events. That left poor Frank, KF7RSI, all alone to work the kids that wanted to see the CPD command van but he managed them quite well handing out badge stickers right and left.
Even though smoke from area fires hung in the air and the temperatures were in the upper 90’s, everyone had a great time and we hope to be back for next year’s National Night Out community event – perhaps with a few more helpers!