Nine neighborhoods across the McLean Police District registered to officially join in the area’s celebration of the 2018 National Night Out (NNO) on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The activities and events that took place in each locale were as different and diverse as the neighborhoods themselves, but they were all united by the fun that neighbors enjoyed, and by the visits they received from their local law enforcement personnel and first responders.
Dubbed “a party with an important purpose” by National Night Out founder Matt Peskins, the gatherings in McLean achieved both purposes that the NNO targets – for police and public safety personnel to engage on a social level with the communities they serve, and for neighbors to get together to solidify old relationships, make new ones, and just have fun.
Peskins, founder of the National Association of Town Watch, introduced the first NNO in 1984, seeing the get-togethers as the natural next step for the association that was founded to support and bring resources to the citizens and public service persons who were joining forces to promote crime prevention and public safety, street by street.
In 1984, about 2.5 million neighbors, representing some 400 communities in 23 states participated in the first event. Last year, about 16,000 communities sent 38 million people out into their streets to meet and greet each other and local police, firefighters, and paramedics.
“It’s just great,” said Vinson Hall Retirement Community COO Mike Hendee. “Taking the time to just get together and to have the opportunity to thank our local public safety personnel.”
Quite a few officers and first responders from the McLean Police District showed up to mingle with the crowd at Vinson Hall and enjoy the culinary offerings. Before they could hit the chow line, however, they were welcomed and given a hearty round of applause by the attendees.
VINSON HALL hosted a cookout under a temporary pavilion set up on their property, inviting not only the McLean District Police and other public safety heroes, but also residents from the surrounding neighborhoods and members of nearby religious communities. From the size of the crowd gathered under the tent and piling plates with American cookout fare, it’s a safe bet to say that at least a few of those neighbors accepted the invitation.
“This is an important part of our place in the community,” said CEO Libby Bush, who was enjoying her first NNO event at Vinson Hall.
Vinson Hall residents Midge and Chris Holmes have experienced the NNO evening at their complex before, but this year Midge volunteered to demonstrate her newfound creative talents as a face painter. “I am taking the art class here and really liking it, but I am not sure I am up to this task yet,” she laughed, although her husband Chris didn’t seem to mind sporting the evidence of her efforts.
While some communities like Vinson Hall have been participating in the NNO for years, others, like Timberly, off of Old Dominion Drive, made 2018 the start of their new National Night Out tradition, thanks in large part to neighborhood newcomer and event organizer Leslie Mason.
There were plenty of high spirits and sparkling spirits at the Timberly gathering – and the firefighters from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue McLean Tower 401 took a few of the residents to even greater heights by giving them a birds-eye view of their neighborhood from the platform of the extended fire truck ladder!
Neighbors Terry Grimm and Cathy Scott were among those who donned the “my gosh these are heavy” helmets and got belted in and attached to safety rings for the climb of some 75 feet into the air thanks to Fire and Rescue Technician Wismer and Master Tech Spinner.
While no kids were allowed to make the dizzying trip for safety reasons, the youngsters didn’t seem disappointed to take a run around the fire truck and a crawl through the cabin – in between holding up their handmade sign thanking the public safety personnel and refreshing stops at the sweets table and races across their neighbors’ lawns.
“Hopefully, this is just the start of even more neighborhood gatherings,” said Mason.
“Yes, we need to make the time to bring people together like this,” agreed long-time Timberly resident Mildred Williamson, “and I am happy to see the police in the neighborhood.”
Even though dusk was approaching by the time they had their equipment packed up and ready to roll out, the Tower 401 team didn’t end their community engagement shift at Timberly. Next stop for the fearless firefighters and rescue personnel was the NNO party at Pimmit Barn on Cherri Drive in the Pimmit Hills neighborhood where more than 150 locals, and Fairfax County Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust were on hand to welcome them.
This event was organized by the Friends of Pimmit Barn, a group dedicated to preserving the historic site and structure. Friends of Pimmit Barn president Connie Cordovilla manned a table front and center with information about the group’s efforts to restore the barn to its 1937 glory.
“It’s a hidden treasure,” said Cordovilla. “Most people, even those who live in this area, don’t know it exists and now they are getting the chance to see what a gem we have right here in our own backyard.”
Of course there was plenty of food and beverages available at the Pimmit Barn version of National Night Out, including a collection of cakes baked by residents and by students from Marshall High School as much-coveted prizes for an old-fashioned cake walk.
THE LAWN in front of the Barn was the setting for lots of interaction between the gathered neighbors and the Tower 401 gang and other members of the public safety community. Yes, there were more tours through the command center cabin of the fire truck, although the tight quarters and more densely populated location made any high-flying ladder demonstration a no-go. But the kids seemed happy to hang with their blue-uniformed heroes, as well as a surprise visitor – the Chick-fil-A giant red cow!
At times at the McLean events it was hard to tell who was having the most fun – the neighbors or their visiting law enforcement and first responder guests, but maybe that means the National Night Out mission to bring citizens and public safety personnel together as a community was being accomplished, one neighborhood at a time.
Other NNO gatherings took place around the district, including at Tysons Glen, Jefferson Park Condos and Jefferson Village. Did your neighborhood miss out on hosting a “party with a purpose” this year? Visit the website www.natw.org to find out more and how to register for next year’s event – then get out there and start meeting your neighbors to get things going.