After just one year, Mt. Laurel Township has made National Night Out a cornerstone of its annual event calendar.
Last year, the township joined dozens of other local municipalities across South Jersey with a National Night Out event at Laurel Acres Park, with Mt. Laurel Police, Fire and EMS all getting involved.
Last year’s event was so well received, the 2019 edition will be even bigger thanks to the involvement of additional sponsors.
“We’ve grown it a little bit,” township manager Meredith Tomczyk said. “We’ve added some new vendors. There will be free face painting for the kids, free bounce houses with the kids.”
National Night Out is a nationwide community-building event. It started in 1984 and is meant to promote a strong relationship between local police departments and the communities they serve. The event is different in every municipality, with some communities hosting cookouts and block parties while others hold large festivals.
For Mt. Laurel, National Night Out is all about forging a relationship between the township’s numerous emergency organizations and the residents. Tomczyk noted agencies such as the police and fire departments were always active in the township’s biggest event of the year, Fall Festival. However, she and many others in the township believed National Night Out was the perfect summer event to give those departments the spotlight and allow them to show the community what it is like to be a first responder.
This year, an influx of sponsorships is helping to boost the number of activities and giveaways. Children will have the opportunity to win items such as bicycles or scooters. One of the new sponsors, Pelican’s Snoballs, will be giving away free snow cones throughout the night. Members of Mt. Laurel Township Council will also be on hand for the event.
“We always try to change an event a little bit to keep people’s interest in it,” Tomczyk said about the additional activities. “But we actually had a lot of sponsors this year.”
Tomczyk believes kids of all ages will enjoy the event. Many of the giveaways and raffles include prizes for the youngest kids through teenagers.
But beyond the giveaways and prizes, the real treat is when the township’s youngest residents get to meet Mt. Laurel’s emergency responders. Tomczyk believes one of the best parts of National Night Out is it can give residents of all ages a chance to learn more about what the different departments do and how someone can get started with volunteering in their township.
“It’s just a way for the residents to come out and meet emergency management from the different agencies,” Tomczyk said.
“Even if you’re older and want to talk to EMS about volunteering and getting involved in your community, all of that information is available,” she added.
National Night Out will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Laurel Acres Park. Activities will take place near the Church Street entrance. The event is free and open to the public.