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Rochester neighborhood groups hold dozens of Night to Unite gatherings city-wide

On the first Tuesday of August, neighborhood associations and other community organizations joined the statewide Night to Unite community safety campaign, which is held in conjunction with National Night Out.

Night to Unite
People congregate at "Night to Unite" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at High Point Condominiums in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — “Welcome Neighbors” written in blue chalk decorated the sidewalk in front of High Point Condominiums: the scene of community gathering held during Rochester’s Night to Unite.

Night to Unite, held on the first Tuesday of August, is the Minnesotan version of the country-wide campaign National Night Out, which was started in Philadelphia in 1984.

“We kind of want everyone to get to know everyone,” said Wolf Mirasol, who helped organize the event at High Point Condominium along with his husband, Matt Belau. They were joined by neighbors from Five Oaks Condominiums, Knob Hill Condos and other nearby homes as they got together for Night to Unite. ”It just makes the area nicer.”

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This event, both locally and across the county, seeks to build community ties between citizens, businesses and local officials.

Tuesday's Night to Unite was sponsored by the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office, the Rochester Police Department and Custom Alarm.

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Its main goals are to improve awareness, community support and participation in crime and drug prevention awareness programs, as well as strengthen community partnerships to promote community safety.

About 60 registered events such as cookouts, block parties occurred around Rochester, giving neighbors a way to get better acquainted and catch up with one another. Gatherings ranged in size and festivity, with some gatherings consisting of a couple of neighbors sitting and chatting on a driveway to larger events held in community parks with bouncy houses, games and tents.

In the Historic Southwest neighborhood, residents of High Point Condominium were joined by neighbors from Five Oaks Condominiums, Knob Hill Condos and other nearby homes as they got together for Night to Unite.

According to Mirasol, he decided to organize the event after being part of a similar event in San Diego before moving to Rochester. Mirasol said jokingly that people in San Diego are “not known for being outgoing,” but by the end of the event every neighbor on the block knew each other.

Belau mentioned he had grown up in the area and would walk past High Point and imagine living there in the future. “Who knew I would end up here,” Belau said.

According to Belau, there have not been many community safety concerns in the neighborhood before a series of garage break-ins within the past year.

“We wanted to get people together and talk about this stuff … besides ice cream,” Belau said.

Historic Southwest resident of 23 years, Julia Accola, said that in the time she has lived in the area, there have not been any community events like the one held Tuesday evening.

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Accola said that getting to know neighbors has been difficult in recent years with the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused higher turnover of residents in her building.

Joel Charlson, a resident of Five Oaks Condominiums, said there is value in having connections with your neighbors, especially with instances of community safety.

Charlson also brought up the break-ins and said that eventually, the community was able to solve the problem by communicating with each other; in this case, the solution was a security camera which ended up catching the person breaking into condo garages on tape.

“We learn from each other,” Charlson said. “I’m very appreciative of Wolf for putting this on.”

Night to Unite
A chalk drawing by Wolf Mirasol is seen at "Night to Unite" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at High Point Condominiums in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Night to Unite
Marcus Sherels, left, signs footballs for Kim Holst, director of marketing for River Bend Assisted Living during "Night to Unite" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Night to Unite
People congregate at "Night to Unite" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at High Point Condominiums in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Night to Unite
Residents at River Bend Assisted Living enjoy root beer floats during "Night to Unite" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Night to Unite
People congregate at "Night to Unite" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at High Point Condominiums in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Night to Unite
Residents at River Bend Assisted Living enjoy "Night to Unite" on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, at in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Bella Carpentier is a journalism and political science student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (UMN-TC). She is currently the managing editor of the student-run paper at UMN-TC, the Minnesota Daily. While reporting for the Minnesota Daily, she covered student activism and issues affecting the university's student body. Working for the Post Bulletin, Bella hopes to build community connections and advance her reporting skills. Readers can reach Bella at bcarpentier@postbulletin.com.
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