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Suffolk prepares for National Night Out

After a year off, Suffolk is ready for the return of one of its biggest nights.

National Night Out is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. on Aug. 3 at various locations throughout the city.

This is the night Suffolk throws a going-away party for crime. The city has participated for more than 20 years, and within those years, Suffolk has ranked first in the nation five times, and for the past 14 years straight has been in the top five. After canceling this event for 2020, Suffolk is ready to put together a National Night Out this year to make up for it.

With police and firefighters and other first responders mingling with the community, this event helps create unity, especially in this time of division.

“This celebration is important, especially considering recent history,” said Diana Klink, spokeswoman for the City of Suffolk. “This event celebrates positivity and what unites us, not the negativity we have seen and heard across the nation.”

According to Klink, police and firefighters usually interact with community members on their worst days, whether a crime was committed against them, their home is on fire or they or someone they love are having a medical emergency. This event allows the first responders to throw a Frisbee and eat a hotdog with residents to show the humanity many often forget.

“They have families and homes just like the rest of us,” added Klink. “It puts a human face and reminds the community that we are all in this together to make our community a better place. The bottom line is that we are better together.”

The celebrations across the city vary in size. Some are just a single neighborhood or church coming together with a crowd in the hundreds or less. Others are made up of multiple organizations coming together and can be in the thousands.

One location known to draw a big crowd is at the Obici & Health Fair at King’s Fork High School, 351 Kings Fork Road. This location has a big team with many players bringing various things to the event. Suffolk Cultural Arts Center is taking care of the live music on stage, Community Church is providing inflatables for the kids, and the King’s Fork High School Marching Band will attend, as well as many other vendors.

“We are all thrilled just to bring some normalcy back into the community,” said Cusi Hamlin, one of the organizers for the Obici event.

As part of its health fair, there will be a COVID-19 booth with information. The site hopes to have vaccines available as well that night for those who still need to take the shot.

Entering new to the National Night Out party lineup is the Creekside Elementary PTA. Being the only elementary school in Suffolk to participate, the PTA hopes to take this opportunity to engage with parents and the community since the past school year’s virtual format did not allow as many engagement events as they would normally have.

“We are definitely excited but have a lot of nerves,” said Megan Downes, an organizer for the event. “We want to make this annual, especially post-COVID. This is a good opportunity to see new families who have come and to reach out.”

The event will have a focus on bicycle safety for students who ride them to school and home. The military police will set up two bike agility courses, one for ages 4 to 7 and one for those 8 to 12. VDOT will provide correct signs to help give the course some authenticity. Students who participate must bring a bike and helmet. Students can then turn in their grading card to be in a raffle for a new bike and helmet donated by CHKD.

Other activities include a dunk tank, watermelon eating contest, information booths and much more. In addition, Sylvan Learning will have a station with Legos, Suffolk Public Library will be present with its mobile library and tech support, and there will be a station for students to decorate a mask for the upcoming school year.

Those who cannot come out to participate at the various parties are encouraged to turn on their porch light as a symbol of solidarity.

In preparation for National Night Out, visit the Duck Pluck from 6 to 9:30 p.m. on July 30 at Bennett’s Creek Park, 3000 Bennett’s Creek Park Road. Participants can obtain their free ticket from the National Night Out tent. During the band’s first break during the T.G.I.F. concert, organizers will pluck plastic ducks from the water. If the number on a plucked duck matches a participant’s ticket, the participant wins National Night Out-themed prizes. In addition, the tent will have plenty of information for those with questions about the event.

To learn more or find the closest party, visit suffolknno.com.