Summer may seem as though it has barely begun, but National Night Out, Monroe’s largest annual town event, is less than a month away. This year, it takes place Tuesday, Aug. 5 at Lake Tye Park, from 6-9 p.m.
Monroe’s event is among the largest in the state, both in terms of turnout, and in terms of business participation.
Every year, more than 50 businesses, non-profits and other organizations put together booths for the safety awareness event.
Putting together a booth takes some creativity, as all booths must have a public safety message. That way, the event stays on topic and doesn’t turn into a business fair.
For businesses that aren’t necessarily public safety related, that can be a fun challenge, said Dana Brash, new to National Night Out this year.
Brash wanted people to know about the new club he is starting at Frank Wagner Elementary.
It’s a robot-building club; a great educational opportunity for elementary kids, but not terribly public-safety oriented. Then Brash had an idea.
“I think it’s a neat challenge,” he said. “It’s right up there with the way I’m hoping to challenge the kids, give them problems to solve. So I thought, I can set up a motion-detection robot, and that can show how motion detects works. I’m excited about that.”
(To learn more about Brash’s upcoming robot class, see https://www.facebook.com/fwerobotclub.)
Another business not associated with safety, but very involved in National Night Out, is Dr.
Max Orthodontics, he of the landmark Main Street dinosaur statue.
“Dr. Max loves attending Night Out,” said his assistant, Erin Kingery, who for the past three years has managed his booth. “He enjoys the opportunity to socialize with his patients and other community members outside of the office. Of course, we will have information about Dr. Max and orthodontics but this event is not really about publicizing the business.”
Instead, he each year presents information on some aspect of crime prevention.
Then, when two years ago vandals attempted to steal the dinosaur statue, damaging it so badly it had to be sent away for months for repairs, so many townspeople inquired about the missing figure that, for a while, Kingery thought about doing a booth on the assault on the statue.
“We wanted to do a big display about the attempted robbery of the sign but the police thought that drawing attention to that incident would give the vandals attention they do not deserve,” said Kingery. “Unfortunately, the people responsible for vandalizing our sign were never caught. Otherwise, I would make that our public safety message this year.”
So instead, the company decide to have information about a somewhat related criminal issue; car prowling.
“Car prowling is one of the biggest problems in Monroe and as one of the many businesses that is located on Main Street, we thought that car prowling would be an appropriate crime to highlight,” said Kingery. “Our ‘crime prevention’ display is all about car prowlers and how to avoid having your car broken into. Our display has the relevant facts but I tie our dinosaur theme into it with pictures from Jurassic Park where the dinosaur is pushing over the car.”
And, like many other booth operators, Dr. Max has added some plain old fun.
“This year we will have a large spinning wheel with a variety of prizes that we will be giving away,” said Kingery. “Most of the prizes are dinosaur-themed and cater to the kids that attend the event.”
Public safety involves more than just fighting crime, and Vince Bertrand at the City of Monroe’s Stormwater Management Program creates a booth each year to highlight environmental safety.
“I continually attempt to change the theme of the booth,” said Bertrand. “The first year I concentrated on what pet waste can do to lakes, rivers, streams and habitat and the impurities they can carry. The next year I did rain gardens, and then we did one on ‘Don’t Drip and Drive,’ and how you can get a free inspection on your car so you don’t drip oil on the roads, and we had pads to show what can be dripping from your car.”
Bertrand is particularly excited about this year.
This year is the best year, the most exciting, I think,” he said. We’ve done spill kits, we’ve done a big push to educate businesses on spill kits and what you need in them. This year I have a rain barrel I’m going to bring out and a porous concrete demonstration model, and show people, we are putting porous concrete down in many areas of the city, as well.”
Porous concrete has been around since the 1800s, but has only become popular in the United States in recent years.
Sliced, it looks like a large gray Rice Krispy treat, made of concrete and large gravel, and it allows water to drain through it rather than run off into storm drains. That way, pollutants are filtered out naturally in the soil beneath instead of running into storm drains carrying a load of pollutants.
Bertrand also works with fellow city employee Brad Feilberg to make his booth as fun for kids as it is interesting for adults.
“I actually coordinate with Brad Feilberg, who sets up a booth for Emergency Management,” he said. “We take three spaces. I do one end and he does the other and in the middle we have a bean bag toss for the kids.”
They also include lots of giveaways for kids, such as pencils and magnets.
Some booths have activities for grownups, too.
A natural for a public safety event is martial arts, and Aaron Fry of Monroe’s Active Martial Arts takes the opportunity to offer citizens a free workout that also includes personal self defense training.
“We are going to be doing our martial arts class outside,” he said. “People will come in and we’ll teach proper punches and kicks, and get a good workout.”
There will be opportunities for people to try out sparring, using target pads and mitts.
One of the most enduringly popular activities at National Night Out is the Fire Safety Trailer.
“We provide tours through our fire safety trailer in an effort to demonstrate the need for and effectiveness of smoke alarms, fire sprinklers, an escape plan,” said Michael Fitzgerald, Fire Marshall of Monroe’s Fire District #3. “The fire safety trailer and Monroe firefighters provide a safe environment for children to practice escaping through a window during a simulated home emergency.”
People sit in the inside of a trailer that looks like the interior of a house, and soon a white smoke begins filling the room. Kids and adults can feel the door, which grows hot to the touch, and then escape the trailer by means of a window and escape ladder.
Participating in National Night Out by making a booth and spreading messages of public safety is a great opportunity for a business that cares about its town, said Erin Kingerly of Dr. Max Orthodontics.
“Night Out is about coming together as a community and as a business owner that loves the community,” she said.