National Night Out bridges gap between police, residents of South River

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Eliot "the Super Magic Man" performs magic trick for kids during South River's 10th annual National Night Out. VASHTI HARRIS STAFF
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Eliot "the Super Magic Man" performs magic trick for kids during South River's 10th annual National Night Out. VASHTI HARRIS STAFF

SOUTH RIVER – Food, activities and magic shows brought more than 500 people to the South River Police Department’s 10th annual National Night Out event on Aug. 7.

National Night Out is an annual community building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods a safer, better place to live, according to a statement from the police department.

“We love it because it’s the one event a year where we can get the whole town to come in and actually talk to [residents] one on one, on a personal level, and not be police officers,” Sgt. Edwin Yorek said. “Half of us are residents in town and the other half just wants to be looked at as being like everybody else.”

The event, held in the South River High School parking lot, featured food trucks, a petting zoo, magic shows performed by Eliot “The Super Magic Man,” music, a monster truck, a dunk booth, face painting, emergency equipment displays, a Fun Bus, a video game trailer and a giant inflatable slide.

“It’s always hard to plan because you have to coordinate with all of the vendors, you have to coordinate the Fun Bus and all of the stuff for the kids, making sure you try to attract everybody. … We try to do a little bit of everything and obviously we have a budget to stick to,” Yorek said.

There were representatives from community organizations, including the South River Community Garden, the South River Public Library, the South River Human Relations Commission, Boy Scout Troop 83, the South River Shade Tree Commission, the South River Fire Department, the South River Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities and the South River High School Robotics Team.

Human Relations Commission member Zorina Mohammed said, “We have such a diverse community that is untapped, so a lot of people are used to their sub-communities within the larger one. By doing this we are doing things for the entire community, bridging the gaps between different nationalities, offering services … so it’s good socially and it is also another way to help the community come together and offer them things they may not otherwise get.”

Library Trustee Aileen Chadwick helped to run the library table and handed out library resources, pamphlets informing residents about upcoming events and prizes for children who did their summer reading.

A Friend of the Library member for 40 years, Chadwick said by coming to National Night Out, she wanted to help encourage residents to visit the library.

“I want people to know we are there and to come back. … We need people to start talking about the library because it’s not used like it should be,” Chadwick said.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.