National Night Out shines

Published 11:11 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Suffolk National Night Out Aug. 6, 2019 from Suffolk News-Herald on Vimeo.

By Alex Perry, Jimmy LaRoue and Tracy Agnew

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National Night Out brought the community together on Tuesday with activities, food, fun and most importantly, unity.

The annual celebration, which is always a sight to see as Suffolk goes all out for the event, was going on all over the city at dozens of locations.

Before the party really got started, city officials held a kickoff at Suffolk City Hall, where they talked about the importance of a partnership between the public and public safety officials.

“We celebrate in Suffolk an enviable relationship between our public safety community and the community at large,” City Manager Patrick Roberts said. “That relationship and that partnership is built and strengthened every day by individual acts of courage, selflessness and compassion exhibited daily by the members of our public safety team.”

Police Chief Thomas Bennett noted that it takes individual members of the public as well as civic leagues, businesses and faith organizations, to name a few, working with public safety officials to help make the city safer.

“Everybody has to work together as a team to be successful,” Bennett said. “If you don’t, you have no chance, and we do a great job of that here in Suffolk.”

Friends and family enjoyed the night in the downtown Suffolk lot at the intersection of Commerce and East Washington streets.

Style Salon owner Esther Mason brought together more than a dozen local businesses and organizations for the block party, with food, a bounce house and music that could be heard far and wide on East Washington Street.

“It’s to bring the community together to fight crime,” Mason said as speakers boomed behind her and people danced to the beat. It was Mason’s 10th National Night Out that she’s participated in. “I really enjoy it.”

It was the fourth National Night Out for Suffolk Sheriff’s Deputy Reva Brinkley. She arrived with deputies Veronica Woodson and Morgan Olson to have fun with citizens, many of whom they know quite well.

“We just like to have fun and show support,” Brinkley said. “It feels good because a lot of people, they already know me from the community engagements that we do at the Sheriff’s Office. So it’s like when you come out here, you’re no stranger to them. You can just get out and have fun with them and enjoy each other.”

King’s Fork High School hosted the National Night Out at Obici & Health Fair, which featured the school’s Mighty Marching Bulldogs and other crowd-pleasing performances.

Artists of all skill levels decorated the sidewalk for Suffolk Art League’s Chalk the Walk. The images they created reflected the “Lock It…Don’t Lose It” theme of the night and celebrated Suffolk’s first responders.

“There’s some wonderful images appearing on the sidewalk here at King’s Fork High School,” said Suffolk Art League Executive Director Linda Bunch.

The fair was filled with activities provided by numerous different organizations, free food served up by the Suffolk Elks Lodge with help from Suffolk Business Women, and free health screenings by Sentara Obici Hospital staff.

“We’re just trying to improve the health of our community,” Marianne Walston, director of critical and intermediate care at Sentara Obici Hospital.

This fair seems to grow each and every year, Walston said, and each the Suffolk community shows up to stand up against crime.

“I love the camaraderie in the community for fighting crime, for getting together as a community of citizens about the things that matter to us the most: fellowship, fun and health,” Walston said.

Citizens received valuable information on how to stay safe, from the professionals that are dedicated to their safety.

“This is the kind of showing we like to see,” said Pam King, a fire investigator for Suffolk Fire & Rescue. “The public safety part of our city has a common goal to keep our community safe, and this is a demonstration of how the community can come together and celebrate.”

At the Hollywood/Jericho Civic League celebration at the Cypress Pool on Arizona Avenue, civic league president Lois Slaughter said the celebration is important for the community.

“We’re excited about this,” she said. “Each year, we have different ideas, and we just put them together.

At Greater First Baptist Church Orlando, David Hudgins was on the fish fryer while Rodney Doughty and William Hill were on the grill, joking back and forth about who were the better cooks.

Genieve Shelter representative Bryce Williams, a legal advocate, said this was the shelter’s second year attending the Orlando event.

“We’re here to offer our services to those in need who are victims of domestic and sexual violence,” Williams said.

At Suffolk Fire & Rescue Station 9 in Chuckatuck, more than 200 people turned out for music, food and the petting zoo from Teeny Tiny Farm. Kids also took the opportunity to have their faces painted and to jump in the bounce house.

Chamiel Robertson, who brought her son to the event, was walking around as her son was petting the animals.

“Last year we missed it,” Robertson said. “I heard all the great things out here. I heard about the great environment out here.”

Joe and Lynn Barlow got a chance to get serenaded by the Rev. Berry Jones. The Barlows have been married 22 years, and Tuesday was Lynn Barlow’s birthday. Jones sang the song, “Always on my Mind,” to the couple.

Kerri Newell of Chuckatuck, who brought her children Amber, 5, and Mason, 4, said she comes to the event every year.

“It’s something to do on a Tuesday night and allows them to get some energy out before bedtime,” Newell said.

Councilman Mike Duman, looking into the crowd eating, said he was pleased by the turnout.

At Pughsville Park, DJ Lady J was playing some laid-back R&B music for the 150 or so people that turned out as people took to the basketball courts, ate food and played on the playground. Suffolk and Chesapeake police officers mingled with the crowd in attendance at the neighborhood that straddles the city line, with Chesapeake Police officer Sarah Everette bringing McGruff the Crime Dog with her.

Wayne White, president of the Pughsville Civic League, said its National Night Out event has been getting better and better every year over the past 15 to 20 years.

“That’s the good thing about the neighborhood,” White said. “We haven’t had any shootings or any of those things since we’ve been here. It’s a good thing for all the people to come out and have a good time.”