Ask Kristie Myrie about her favorite part of Lawrence Township’s National Night Out.
She responded with a quick answer.
“It’s the watermelon and the free bicycle helmet for my son.”
And if her 2-year-old son, Ray Myrie, could answer that question, he would likely say it’s the corn on the cob that he was focused on eating as he sat in his stroller.
Myrie and her son were among the hundreds of visitors to the township’s National Night Out event on the front lawn at the Lawrence Township Municipal Complex Aug. 6. This is the first time that they have attended the event.
That was not the case for Maria Connolly, who has been coming to Lawrence Township’s National Night Out event with her family for a few years.
“Everyone is so nice. You see friends. The children love it,” Connolly said.
Her daughter, Isabella Connolly, agreed. She said she liked sitting in the fire engine, and she also liked jumping around in the inflatable bounce house.
Isabella, who is 7 years old, even tried on a firefighter’s jacket and helmet, with a little help from Evan Gramajo, who volunteers with the Lawrence Road Fire Co.
The goal of National Night Out, which is held in cities and towns across the United States on the first Tuesday in August, is to forge a bond between local police and the residents they serve so that together, they can fight crime.
“It’s a great way (for the police officers) to give back to the community for all they do for us. It’s a good partnership,” said Police Chief Brian Caloiaro.
Lawrence Township has been holding National Night Out for many years. The first few ventures were small scale affairs, held in different neighborhoods across the township so residents could meet police officers one-on-one.
Later, it was held at the Eggerts Crossing Village residential development off Johnson Avenue. Officials decided to move the event to the front lawn at the Lawrence Township Municipal Complex, where it could be spread out.
And spread out it has, from several tables set up for community groups to inflatable bouncy slides and a bounce house. Children explored a New Jersey National Guard humvee, a fire truck that the Lawrence Road Fire Co. brought along, and the Lawrence Township Emergency Medical Service’s ambulance.
Police officers Ronald Buchanan and James Steimle put their K-9 partners, Brix and Ty, through their paces. Officer Buchanan donned a heavily padded “bite suit,” and Officer Steimle set Brix on him. The dog tugged on Officer Buchanan and would not let go.
“He’s the best partner in the world,” Officer Buchanan said of Ty. At the end of the day – even if it has been a “bad one” – “Ty still loves you,” he said.
While one of the highlights for young visitors was the bounce house, the longest line was at the food stand, where Lawrence Township police officers stood over hot grills to offer up hamburgers and hot dogs. There was watermelon, corn on the cob and pizza.
Meanwhile, Mayor Christopher Bobbitt said he thought the Police Department did “an amazing job” at pulling together the National Night Out event – from the food to the music played by a live band on the steps of the Municipal Building.
“People get to talk to one another. That’s what National Night Out is about – coming out to get to know each other and to get to know the Police Department,” Mayor Bobbitt said.