Members of the Laurel Police Department show off some of their tactical gear during a past National Night Out at Granville Gude Park at Laurel Lakes.
Members of the Laurel Police Department show off some of their tactical gear during a past National Night Out at Granville Gude Park at Laurel Lakes. (Photo by Nate Pesce)

Since 1980, communities across the country have celebrated National Night Out on the first Tuesday of August. Whether an ice cream social, cookout or block party, the event brings law enforcement officers and neighborhood residents together to socialize in a fun atmosphere.

“The concept is definitely worthwhile,” said Steffanie Nollie, community manager of Emerson Community Association in Laurel. “It brings law enforcement and people on the same level. It encourages kids that police are our friends.”

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Attendees at Emerson Community Association’s Night Out party will enjoy free ice cream and a variety of games for all ages, including an 80-foot inflatable Velcro soccer bulls-eye, Nollie said. Numerous local and county officials will visit and there will also be various giveaways, including finger-printing kits for parents to use.

“It’s definitely a good event with lots of different things going on,” Nollie said. “The association tries to really do it up right.”

At the Savage Community Association’s Night Out celebration, it has been a tradition the last several years to host an old-fashioned cake walk, where participants win cakes by moving around a circle to music.

“It’s like musical chairs with numbers on the floor,” explained Sara Vermillion, a Savage Community Association board member. “Folks love to bake cakes for the cake off. Some are for adults, like rum cake, others for kids.”

While participation in the cake walk will be for a minimal fee to offset costs, everything else at Savage’s National Night Out party will be free, from the ice cream to the children activities and live band concert.

“Local police officers will be there, and McGruff [the Crime Dog] will show up,” Vermillion said.

The association will also be collecting school supplies for Bollman Bridge Elementary School.

“Everyone is invited,” Vermillion said. “It will be rain or shine as the community center is Historic Baldwin Hall.”

Though he was sworn in before taking office in June, Laurel Chief of Police Russell Hamill will have a public swearing in during the city’s National Night Out celebration.

“The general public will get to know him and meet him.” said Laura Guenin, public relations officer for the police department. “The mayor will be there.”

Demonstrations will be done Emergency Response Team, a jaws of life car extraction and the K-9 teams. There will be hot dogs and Mission BBQ, and everything is free.

“It is a great way to learn about police on a casual level,” Guenin said. “It is a huge turnout.”

As of Monday, there were more than 35 National Night Out celebrations planned around Howard County for Aug. 6, according to Lori Boone, the public information officer for the Howard County Police Department. While registering the party with the police department is not required, by doing so, the department will schedule a visit from local police officers and McGruff.

The department also hosts its own National Night Out event each year at different locations in the county. This year’s party will take place at Long Reach Village Center, from 6 to 9 p.m. and feature live music, $10 vouchers for food trucks, children’s activities and various county resource materials.

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“It builds camaraderie between the community and the police,” Boone said. “People come out and talk and enjoy each other’s company.”

For Nollie, who has managed the community at Emerson for the past three years, National Night Out is special for one other reason.

“To know that for one night, communities all over the United States, not just us and Columbia … are all celebrating the same thing,” Nollie said. “It’s kind of neat.”

If you go

Emerson Community Association, 8400 Upper Sky Way, Laurel, 6 to 8 p.m.

Savage Community Association, Baldwin Hall, 9035 Baltimore St., Savage, 6 to 8 p.m.

Long Reach Village Center, 8775 Cloudleap Court, Columbia, 6 to 9 p.m.

City of Laurel, Granvill Gude Park, 8300 Mulberry St., 6 to 9.m.

For a list of other National Night Out parties in Howard County, go to hcpd.org.

Part of the Howard County Volunteer Mounted Patrol, Tom Thelen of Kent Island, left, on Cisco, and Kate Leary of Mayo, on Zoro, make their way to Vantage Point Park for a past National Night Out.
Part of the Howard County Volunteer Mounted Patrol, Tom Thelen of Kent Island, left, on Cisco, and Kate Leary of Mayo, on Zoro, make their way to Vantage Point Park for a past National Night Out. (Nicole Munchel, for the Baltimore Sun Media Group)
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