Mint Hill celebrates National Night Out

National Night Out is an annual, country-wide community building program. Its goal is to “make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live” by promoting police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

The National Night Out program was begun in 1984 by Matt Peskin, founder and director of National Association of Town Watch. After several years volunteering with his local community watch program in the suburbs of Western Philadelphia, Peskin started the National Association of Town Watch as a means for connecting community watch groups and providing them with the necessary resources and assets to be effective in their communities.

The first annual National Night out in 1984 involved 2.5 million people across 400 communities in 23 states. Today, millions of neighbors from thousands of communities in all fifty states gather on the first Tuesday in August. The celebrations differ in form: block parties, festivals, parades, and cookouts, to name a few. But they gather with singular goal in mind: to promote community and enhance the relationship between civilians and law enforcement.

Everyone enjoyed the free snow cones dished out by police volunteers.

Mint Hill’s National Night Out took place on August 1 at Veterans Memorial Park. It offered many fun, family-friendly ways for Mint Hill’s residents to mingle with one another and with local law enforcement. Kids enjoyed a bounce house, a dunk tank, and pictures with the Chick-fil-A cows. “My kids enjoyed the dunking tank,” said Mint Hill Mom Barbie Tallent. “All three hit the bull’s-eye twice!” Three-year-old Hannah Foster spent nearly an hour in the bounce house and declared it her “very favorite jumping place.” Kids also enjoyed free snow cones dished out by police volunteers.

Chick-fil-A gave out free sandwiches, and kids enjoyed photos with the cows.

Kids and adults alike enjoyed the K-9 unit demonstration on the soccer fields. Tallent offered up her keys to hide on the field so the K-9 dogs could search for them. For Tallent, it was not only a neat demonstration of the dogs’ abilities but also a welcome reminder of the ways the police are there for the community on a daily basis. “I was happy to hear that they would gladly use their K-9 to help someone who may have lost something important, like house or car keys, at a park,” said Tallent. “I lose everything, and it’s great to know that they are happy to serve in that aspect.”

Throughout the evening, uniformed police officers mixed with the crowd. “We are mingling with the community, helping them to see what we do and be more comfortable with our presence, especially the kids,” said Officer Tolman. “We need that relationship with the community to do our job efficiently.” Tallent’s twins enjoyed seeing the police officers at the park. “The twins had just learned about superheroes at Blair Road UMC’s VBS and were excited to meet and interact with the police officers/superheroes,” she said.

Also present at the event were Assistant District Attorneys Austin Olive and Tim Sielaff. Olive and Sielaff answered questions about the DA’s office and what they do. “These events are really good,” said Sielaff. “Anyone can call or stop in if they have questions or concerns, but it’s a lot easier when you put a face out for people to walk up and voice any concerns or questions they might have.” The ADAs also gave out information on the District Attorney’s Explorers program, a way for teens to get a sneak peak into what it’s like to be a lawyer.

Assistant District Attorneys Austin Olive and Tim Sielaff

ADT Home Security was also present at the event. ADT partners with National Night Out not only to promote their home security services but also to raise awareness and offer simple home security tips. For example, they suggested laying rocks small rocks or gravel and a thorny bush in front of windows. “It immediately prevents a certain percentage of criminals from actually coming in the windows because they’re not willing to risk the noise from the rocks or the thorns from the bush,” said one of the representatives.

ADT offered security tips, like putting gravel and thorny bushes in front of first floor windows.

The great weather, kid-friendly activities and free food made this year’s National Night Out a great evening for all involved. “The free hot dogs and Chick-fil-A were great, and the K-9 demonstration was interesting to watch,” said Mint Hill Mom Miranda DeHart, who looks forward to bringing her one-year-old son back to enjoy the bounce house and dunk tank next year. “Overall, it was a great excuse to get out and enjoy the fabulous weather we have been having!”