Village Park was abuzz with music and families as the Cranbury community celebrated National Night Out with the township police department.
As residents met with Cranbury police officers in the park on Aug. 3 they enjoyed food from Zinna’s Bistro and Chef Jason, ice cream and music by DJ Reggie.
“We normally start planning for this event early, but initially it was going to be canceled and we were not going to have the event. It came on last minute in about the last two months,” said Sgt. Doug Mayer, lead organizer of the event. “The businesses we have tonight were expecting us to do it and were already prepared, I think, when we told them the event would be back on.”
Representatives for Penn Medicine Princeton Health and an FBI canine at tables in Village Park were some of the new additions to the 2021 National Night Out in Cranbury.
“To have this event – especially in our community where it is very community-oriented and to get everyone here in one night – is pretty special,” Mayer said. “We want the community to know we are here for them. Anything we can do to help the community and the surrounding community, we are here.”
Cranbury PBA Local 405, the police department and the township co-sponsored the event.
Joining the police department at the evening event were other first responders such as the Cranbury Fire Department. George’s Garage and Towing also donated trucks for the event.
National Night Out was introduced nationally in 1984 and is an annual community building campaign to make communities safer, according to the National Association of Town Watch. This will be the 38th year of the campaign, which has been held in 400 towns in 23 states.
National Association of Town Watch sponsors the annual event that is also celebrated in U.S. territories and on military bases worldwide with a goal to establish stronger relationships between police officers and the communities they serve.
“Tonight clearly shows the support of the community. People are coming and going and the food is great,” former Chief of Police Harry Kleinkauf said. “I hope people see that the police are here to help. People have to keep in mind that if you commit a crime police might have to do something, and aside from that, the relationship between officers and the community is great.”
He added that things have changed considerably since Kleinkauf was an officer within the department.
“Every time a law changes there is training involved, especially with the criminal statutes and motor vehicle statutes, so we are constantly training. Always have been and always will be,” he said. “I think, overall, everything is going to be for the good.”
Even though the event was scaled down to have a safer outing, children still enjoyed themselves with food, games such as corn hole, or posing with police vehicles as the vehicle lights flashed.
They also took part in dancing to the music provided by DJ Reggie. During the evening, children formed a circle on the grass with DJ Reggie and danced as several children made their way to the middle of the circle to dance solo as the others cheered around the circle. Several moms would also join the dancing themselves as they, too, made their way to the center of the circle.
“It is just so great to have the energy and to see people and see the smiles. To see everyone out it is just really energizing that is the best way I can describe it,” Township Committeewoman Evelyn Spann said. “The Cranbury Police have really always been very community-oriented, even when they hire their officers. They are in the schools, part of the Municipal Alliance, and always a part of the community.”
For Cranbury residents Patricia Franklin and Lydia Boschitsch, the best part of the National Night Out event is the event being a family gathering.
“The police are always there and have your back no matter what. I am just happy to be here in Cranbury Township and I would not be in any other township,” Franklin said. “The atmosphere hasn’t changed; we are still very family-oriented and come out to support one another.”
Boschitsch added that the police give their all for the children in the community.
“I think the township has pulled together tremendously, especially when it comes to our children. We are here for them and we gather when it is needed,” she said. “The police officers forget it, they just go all out for the kids. I have an officer that just stopped and talked to me and gave my grandson a little hug. They really go all out for family and their safety.”