Another successful National Night Out was celebrated by the Cranbury community as police sirens sounded, live DJ music played, and food cooked.
Cranbury families pulled up lawn chairs in Village Park, sat at park benches and danced during the summer evening of fun with their local officers and emergency services for National Night Out on Aug. 2.
“This a great way to bring the community and the police department together. To let the community know they have all these resources, and they can come to us with any problem, and we want to just say ‘Hi’,” said Officer Nicholas Rodrigues, lead organizer of the event and vice president of Cranbury Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 405.
Residents and children were able to inspect Cranbury police vehicles as the red and blue lights flashed and sirens blared.
“We have food for them, live entertainment, vehicles to show them and the event brings us together and [lets the public] know that we are people behind the badge,” Rodrigues said at the event. “I think the biggest thing about this event is connecting with the community and meeting with people who may not have met with us before.”
Cranbury PBA Local 405 and the police department co-sponsored the 2022 event. Every year, National Night Out is planned a year in advance, Rodrigues said.
“This is the event that we give back. Tonight has been amazing, and people are dancing,” he said. “It is a blessing to know that people support us, [they] come out to enjoy themselves and [we are] high-fiving little kids, it is the best feeling in the world.”
Other first responders such as the Cranbury Fire Department joined the police department at the annual community event. George’s Garage and Towing also donated two trucks for display durinng National Night Out.
“National Night Out is the ultimate celebration of people, who keep us happy and safe every day,” Township Committeewoman Eman El-Badawi said. “I genuinely enjoy my neighbors and the police force rubbing elbows, enjoying each other’s company and sharing a little bit of food and just very informally greeting each other.”
She noted that it is critical for the community and police department to know each other personally.
“If we ever lose sight about the fact that we are human and tangible that is when the difficulties will arise,” El-Badawi said.
National Night Out was introduced nationally in 1984 and is an annual community building campaign that was created to make communities safer and build trust between communities and their police departments, according to the National Association of Town Watch.
This is the 39th year of the campaign, which had millions of people participate and attend across all 50 states. Local communities either hosted block parties, parades, and cookouts to celebrate the community event, according to its website.
The National Association of Town Watch sponsors the annual nationwide event that is also celebrated in U.S. territories and on military bases worldwide with a goal to establish stronger relationships and camaraderie between officers and the communities they serve.
In Village Park, children tossed cornhole bean bags in games with each other, as music from DJ Reggie of RSVP Entertainment led others to dance to the “Macarena” or perform the Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” dance moves.
“My family was here last year. I enjoy watching the kids have a good time,” Resident Rich Yun said. “I have two daughters and it’s an event I plan on attending in the future. I think it is important to meet your neighbors and have fun out here.”
The Cranbury Fire Department had fire trucks and fire department vehicles available and open for children to climb onto, inspect and/or touch the equipment and gear the members use during a fire call.
“To see the whole community interacting with emergency personnel in the community is awesome. To have this connection is why people live here,” Resident Nick Peters said. “This is fantastic and [I] will be attending in following years. I have a wife and two daughters, and they love it and we will try to come every year if we can.”
Families enjoyed hamburgers, pizza, hotdogs and also ice cream from Gil & Bert’s Ice Cream.
“We have been to every Cranbury Night Out. It is so nice to be out here full of energy and we enjoy seeing everyone after so long,” Resident Jennifer Boutureira said. “It is important to meet your local police department and fire department to really have that connection with them.”
As the community event ventured into its last hour, DJ Reggie had children dancing together on the grass in Village Park. They formed a circle and began a dance contest as they each danced with energy in the middle of the circle. That soon turned into a full-on dance party with other children and some parents joining in.
Christopher Delgrosso attended Cranbury’s National Night Out for the first time with his family this year.
“My son Jack, he is three and he loves the fire trucks, police trucks and the music, so it is great to see the whole community out,” he said. “We had to be locked down for a couple years, so it is great to get everybody back together. I have enjoyed DJ Reggie and Jack has been really into it, so we are loving that.”