National Night Out has celebrated crime prevention and community safety across the United States the past 33 years — and on Tuesday local police brought the party to Wellington for the first time.
By 7 p.m., music blared as a sizeable crowd filled Howk Memorial Park to enjoy grilled treats courtesy of village law enforcement, firefighters, and EMTs, as well as games and tours of safety vehicles for kids.
“Jeff (Shelton) came to me this year and said he’d like to put this together,” said police chief Tim Barfield. “I said it fits right in with what we are, so let’s make it happen. We had some great sponsors show up and help out providing some food. We have a DJ volunteering his time. We invited fire and EMS because we’re all safety services and I’m pretty happy with what we have here tonight.”
In its inaugural year in Wellington, no one knew what kind of turnout to expect, said mayor Hans Schneider.
He was moved by the number of people who came out to support emergency workers. “For our safety services to see this kind of outpouring of people, it just tells you what the people think of them and the quality of services they offer.”
In 1984, National Night Out was introduced by the National Association of Town Watch.
The first celebration included 2.5 million people in 23 states simply sitting in front of their homes with porch lights turned on. Since then, numbers have swelled drastically to 38 million participants in 16,000 communities.
National Night Out is also celebrated in some Canadian cities and at U.S. military bases worldwide.
The event has strong support here in Ohio. Columbus is one of 14 cities classified on National Night Out’s website as “category one,” meaning more than 300,000 people take part in its annual celebration.
“This is a good thing and it really is a safety services night, at least for everyone around here,” said Wellington assistant fire chief Bill Brown. “
He said police, fire, and emergency medical personnel all “have each other’s backs” and enjoy great relationships with each other. They’ve also been training together more recently.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.