For more than 15 years, the Rutland community has been getting to know the police officers who serve the community in August, and this year’s National Night Out is set for Tuesday.
Taking place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Giorgetti Athletic Complex, the event will include free family activities, food and music.
Svea Howard, communications and outreach coordinator for NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, called the event a “community-building campaign.”
“The focus is that it promotes police-community partnerships, so it’s really about building the neighborhood camaraderie, making sure that kids, especially, know that, ‘Hey, the police are your friends. They’re there to help protect you. They’re the ones that you can turn to. They’re not scary. They’re not these uniformed people that you don’t know who they are. They’re real people. They’re there having fun with you. They’re giving you information. They’re educating you.’ That’s partly why we’ve brought in other resources like the city fire department and ambulance services and first responders,” she said.
During an event with games, face-painting and hamburgers is a more pleasant way to meet emergency personnel than when they’re responding to a crisis in loud trucks with bright flashing lights, according to Howard.
Officer Kevin Blongy, of the Rutland City Police Department, said the community event had grown from a police event to encompass social service agencies, the military and all the local public safety agencies.
“It gets people out. It gets them to meet us and the other public safety agencies on a friendly, laid-back basis so that they’re comfortable approaching us,” he said.
Blongy is a member of the committee that organizes the annual event.
He added that this year would be a good one for families to attend.
“As far as what we have set up, it’s the biggest one we’ve ever done. It’s a really phenomenal event and our turnout gets better every year,” he said.
Howard pointed out the events weren’t just for Rutland City residents and often attracted families from around the Rutland County area. One draw is the chance to see rescue vehicles up close and watch demonstrations from emergency responders under safe conditions.
For instance, firefighters will be demonstrating the methods used to extricate victims from damaged vehicles using the “Jaws of Life.”
“The fire department is actually pulling apart a car so that kids can see, ‘This is what sometimes happens.’ It’s actually going to be really exciting. There’s also K-9 demos so they can see how people work with the K-9 units,” Howard said.
NeighborWorks will be handing out prizes for its onside scavenger hunt, two bounce houses and a slip and slide are expected to be available and popcorn, sno-cones and ice cream will be given out.
Howard said National Night Out will go on regardless of the weather. There was some hard rain in 2018, Howard said, but organizers waited it out and saw strong turnout once the skies cleared up. The National Weather Service, as of Friday afternoon, was predicting a 30% chance of showers Tuesday.
This year will the 17th time a local Night Out event has been in Rutland, according to Howard.
Howard said NeighborWorks partners with the Rutland City Police Department, the Rutland City Fire Department, the Rutland City Recreation and Parks Department, the ACF Church and the Mission City Church to organize the event every year.