The National Night Out Kickoff Party began festivities for the city of Denton by providing free food, games, goodies and booths to inform Denton citizens about the community life within the city and public safety.
“The focus [of the event] is really just to bring everyone together in the community,” Special Event Supervisor for Parks and Recreation Jennifer Eusse said. “We thought it would be a good idea to do a kickoff party and let them [the Denton community] see what we have within the departments and to just come out, have some free food and some fun.”
National Night Out is an event that served as the kickoff to the beginning of community events, such as neighborhood block parties that course within Denton.
Special events are also taken into account of when certain holidays come around, such as the Easter Extravaganza that occurs during the Easter season, and the Liberty Run and Jubilee that happens on the Fourth of July.
Laura Medcafe, a Denton resident, came out to the event and participated in the festivities alongside learning the resources that is provided for the community. Medcafe also brought out her son in hopes of getting him an earlier understanding of the possible services that could be beneficial later on in life.
“There’s a lot of different departments that I didn’t even realize [are] available to the community,” Medcafe said. “Going around and talking to all of the booths really provides a whole new depth of information for us to know, more so than we think we do.”
Coming from a variety of city-wide departments, the joint effort to make this event happen took about two months to establish. Everything from vendors, entertainment and distribution of public safety information was thought of when creating this event.
“It was definitely a collaborative effort with the Fire Department, the county, a lot of emergency management such as Red Cross and FEMA and UNT Police Department,” Denton PD Lieutenant Preston Pohler said. “I presented the idea, and nobody said ‘no,’ so let’s run with it and see how it goes!”
Departments that took action at the event ranged from UNT and TWU to safety units across the city of Denton. Some departments such as the National Weather Service, the Denton Office of Emergency Management, Denton County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) attended the kickoff to raise awareness of public safety for the Denton community.
“This is the first time we’ve done a pre-party kickoff party for National Night Out,” Denton Fire Department Captain Jason Eddington said. “This is just a good chance for all of us [in Denton] to come together, meet each other, eat dinner together and just have fun with one another.”
Eddington also pointed out that the event was also hosted on “Public Safety Day.”
“The Fire Department usually puts together a “Public Safety Day” once every year and we just kind of tagged onto this event,” Eddington said. “There’s a lot of different resources for people to look into.”
Tony Robinson, a regional administrator from FEMA Region 6, talked to the community of their hazards and risks and how to be better prepared for natural disasters that might occur within the area.
“We have provided demonstrations on how the community can protect themselves from flooding, we have mapping to show them where they live in the community in relation to flood risks and are just here to encourage people on how to get prepared,” Robinson said. “We really just want to give back to the community in which we live in.”
The UNT Emergency Management and Safety Services attended the event to talk about the outreach program that is at the university and talk to people who may not have had to undergo or be familiar with these kinds of hazards.
“Just being aware that there are hazards in North Texas and that there is a need to take time to be prepared for those,” UNT Emergency Management Coordinator Julie Elliott said. “This opportunity to bring the community together for an awareness of the resources that are out there to keep you safe and prepared.”
Another group of representatives from the university, the UNT Police Department, came out to enlighten the city of Denton to grasp a better understanding of the safety procedures that could benefit not only the university, but the community.
“National Night Out is a great chance for the community to be able to come out and see city resources that are available to keep them safe,” David Causey, the community relations officer at the UNT Police Department said. “And also to give the residents the chance to have officers come out to visit their neighborhood and know more services that are available to them specifically.”
Featured Image: Attendees take turns attempting to dunk Denton Chief of Police Frank Dixon at the National Night Out Kickoff party on Sept. 30, 2019. Image by Will Baldwin