Neighbors unite for National Night Out
Laid-back parties and cookouts popped up all over the area on Tuesday as people celebrated the 31st annual National Night Out.
The nationwide event began in 1984 as an effort by the National Association of Town Watch to prevent crime by promoting neighborhood camaraderie and strengthening relationships with police.
It has evolved from an action as simple as turning on a porch light into an array of block parties, community gatherings and grill-outs as police and firefighters meet community members and let kids explore their vehicles.
At the Gates of Rochester apartments, multiple languages could be heard as kids packed into the back seat of a police car, cramming five or six in at a time.
Some asked Rochester Police officer Sylvia Quirk what model it is or who drives the car. Quirk said she usually gets questions about how fast it can go or if she has ever arrested anybody.
"The kids love having police officers come and firetrucks," Quirk said. She said it's a nice way for them to interact with police rather than in an adversarial situation.
Troy Vermeersch showed up with his daughters, Adison and Abie, to meet new people and have the kids see the local police. Abie got to climb in the fire truck and gave it two thumbs up.
At 6 p.m., about 200 people had stopped by.
"The goal is just to get the community together — get to know each other, watch each others' backs," said property manager Jenna Schneider.
Molly Manske and Nadia Commers have lived in the Gates apartment complex for only a couple months and enjoyed getting to meet other people living there.
"It's nice to be able to see everyone," Commers said.
Kids splashed in the pool while others played in the nearby park. Parents and other neighbors lounged on the hill, eating hot dogs or drinking root beer floats.
Scattered throughout Rochester neighborhoods, smaller groups got together in driveways or yards, grilling out and playing games.
Megan and Lucas Bestrom sent last-minute invites to their Slatterly Park neighbors. The adults hung out as the kids ran around with squirt guns.
Postman Brian Schuth invited neighbors from both on and off his Southeast Rochester route and grilled in his backyard for the 60-plus people who showed up.
For Schuth, this was his first time hosting such a large neighborhood event, but other events have been going on for years, some fading out and others growing.
Liz Feeser, community manager at the Homestead housing complex in southeast Rochester, said they hope to expand their event next year to include an entire 8 ½-street area.
But for Tuesday, the theme was simple: "relax."