On the first Tuesday in August, cities across the nation celebrate National Night Out, an annual community-building campaign promoting partnerships between police and the people they serve, as well as celebrating neighborhood camaraderie.
According to the National Association of Town Watch website, natw.org, the annual event was officially introduced in 1984 through an already-established network of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups, state and regional crime prevention associations and volunteers across the nation. The first of these annual celebrations involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states.
What started as an observance involving front porch vigils and symbolic efforts by neighbors intended to send a message of neighborhood camaraderie has since grown into nationally held celebrations consisting of block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and a wide variety of community events.
On Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m., Burlington Township will be joining millions across the nation celebrating National Night Out in Green Acres Park, 851 Old York Road.
Officer Floyd Hazzard with the Burlington Township Police Department has been instrumental in organizing the annual celebration for a number of years.
“We try to encourage everybody, the police and the community to come together for one night and talk to each other. We find out what’s going on and we try to have fun with each other and build a bond with the police and the community,” said Hazzard.
Locally, Hazzard says the township began observing National Night Out to promote involvement in crime prevention and has since grown to include a wide variety of offerings for residents of every age.
According to Hazzard, residents can expect as many as 50 vendors, representing businesses throughout the township covering everything from mental health to cleaners and restaurants. There will be plenty of free food options to satisfy even the pickiest eaters in your family.
“Pretty much any business that is in Burlington Township will be there,” said Hazzard.
Classic car enthusiasts will have plenty to see with the annual car show, which will run from 6 to 8 p.m.
A live DJ will be on site throughout the night to keep people moving and the mood lively.
For young attendees, there will be a 21-foot screen set up for a movie in the park. A screening of “The Incredibles 2” will begin between 7:45 and 8 p.m. when the sun goes down. Hazzard suggests anyone planning to watch the movie scope out a good spot early on in the evening.
In addition to reaching out to the many vendors that participate each year, Hazzard says organizing the event begins with ensuring the safety of everyone coming out to enjoy the night.
The police department will be joined by the township’s fire department and Endeavor EMS Squad to not only have those organizations equally represented but to ensure the area is a safe space for everyone attending.
“It’s about six months of planning,” said Hazzard. “I start planning around January.”
According to Hazzard, his department looks forward to this event each year as a great opportunity to engage with the community, which they don’t often get the chance to do while on the clock, and as a way for them to give back and offer people a night out, free of charge.
“We want to treat the community,” said Hazzard.