Neighborhoods get ready for National Night Out
As of Thursday, 190 parties expecting more than 53,000 people in Olmsted County had pre-registered for Tuesday's National Night Out .
The annual event encourages neighbors to get to know each other with the goal of fostering inclusive, safe neighborhoods. It was designed as a way to reduce crime and strengthen relationships between communities and their law enforcement agencies, according to the Rochester Police Department's National Night Out website .
The event here has grown during the last several years, said Darrel Hildebrant, the police department's advanced crime specialist.
"We're breaking all records again. Last year, we broke the record. It keeps going up and up," he said.
Last year, there were 187 parties involving a total of 50,000 people. Since 1998, Rochester has ranked high in the national competition for the number of people and parties registered.
"Last year, we took second in the nation in our population group (100,000 to 299,000). The year before, we were in third place. And the year before that, we were third, so we're in the top in the nation. St. Paul keeps beating us out," Hildebrant said.
He said he's noticed people in Rochester and Olmsted County appear to be looking forward to the event each year and are registering earlier than ever.
"As a matter of fact, on New Year's Day we got our first registration. I've been getting them all year long," he said.
Hildebrant urged people who are thinking of having a National Night Out get-together to register as soon as possible. He wants to get the numbers into the national organization for the competition.
Also, he'll be giving a list of all of the parties to the police and fire departments and Gold Cross Ambulance, whose personnel will be attending parties throughout the evening.
Hildebrant works with the sheriff's department to plan the event, and this year, they are working with Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester to collect for area food shelves. The goal is to collect 2 tons of food. The police department and sheriff's office are encouraging National Night Out parties to have donation barrels.
The nonprofit RNeighbors resource center also will be involved in National Night Out, including its Chalk the Block activity, which involves kids creating colorful art on the street in one of the neighborhoods. This year, it will be in Oak Terrace Estates, a mobile home park that recently partnered with Parkside mobile home park to start a new neighborhood association, said RNeighbors Executive Director Rene Lafflam.
Some of the parties for National Night Out are elaborate, with hundreds of people invited, live music, door prizes and activities. Others are much more modest, potluck-style get-togethers.
The ones with the best themes and attendance have the best chances of winning a trophy from the police department. Hildebrant will be sending out six, two-person teams to make the rounds Tuesday night and judge parties. As part of the competition, the party organizers must explain why their events are better than the others.
"Sometimes they'll say we have the best casserole in town, or the best-looking group, so they are funny about it often," Hildebrant said.