An estimated 8,000 people came out Tuesday for Morris County’s annual National Night Out, said David Doyle, Morris County Park Police Captain.
“This is our 11th year. The last seven years, we’ve been national award winners for this program,” said Doyle.
Morris County Park Police and the Morris County Park Commission hosted the event at the Mennen Arena and saw record turnout numbers.
“This is more people than we ever had before. We do this event each year and we never run out of parking, but today, we’re actually having to create parking spots,” said Morris County Park Police Lt. Joe Milancewich.
“We assigned officers to park cars. Also, usually in previous years, people come and leave, but the difference this year, people are staying longer because there’s so much to do.”
Fire, police and rescue units and many other organizations brought information, fire trucks, emergency vehicles, boats and more to give the public and kids a hands-on experience.
“About 50 groups and organizations participated,” said Doyle. “A lot of these guys volunteered their time today to give back to the community. We try to bring as many services to the community as possible and introduce to them things they may not know exist and (familiarize) them with our police services and emergency services.”
“This is the first year we brought the trucks out,” said Joe Bellardino, chief of Parsippany Rescue and Recovery. “It did very well. The kids love the truck and they like to play with the horn. I think it was a big hit. They go in the vehicle, see the equipment … and now they know what we do in the community.”
“It’s a nice night to be out here because you have tons of people and it’s nice to let everyone know more about Morris Township Fire Department,” said Chief Scott Lovenberg. “We talk to people about fire prevention and what the department has to offer. We’ve been participating in this for all (11) years.”
A popular part of the evening is the free Child ID program, launched in 2000, which registers more than 1,000 children annually, according to Doyle.
“It’s a good time for the adults and the children,” said Whippany mother Rosa Marini. “They teach them about safety and what to do in cases of emergency. It’s a great combination of fun and education.”
Along with the free food, drinks, ice skating, attractions and giveaways, there were police demonstrations, including one with the canine unit.
Parsippany teens Diamond Miller, 13 and Amber Pou, 12, both had a great time. Miller had come once in the past and this was Pou’s first time.
“I like the dog (demonstration) because I love dogs,” said Pou.
“I like the awareness, the police officers teaching us different things and I like the different programs and stations they have here,” said Miller. “and I like the ice-skating. This set up is a fun way for kids and parents to be more aware of our police, fire and health departments.”
“It’s high-spirited and fun. We wanted to make it family friendly and that’s why we brought in these bounce houses,” said Doyle, also emphasizing the educational benefits.
“We brought in our lifeguards so people can have a chance to talk to them, exchange water safety information. Same goes with any of these programs, like stranger danger. If we can impart just one little piece of information that they can take away from here, we can accomplish something.”
According to the county park police website, “National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and generate support and participation in local anticrime and safety programs. (It) also strengthens neighborhood spirit and community partnerships.
One of the major sponsors was ShopRite, which brought several programs and information, including a dietician and a pharmacist.
A new feature this year is a dropoff station for prescription medicine, sponsored by the ShopRite of Greater Morristown.
“That’s huge because you now have a place to get rid of your pharmaceuticals out of your medicine cabinet,” said Doyle.
“We’re the community partner here today. The Shop Rite of Greater Morristown is going to open across the street … in November. We’re building it right now, we have the frames up,” said Amanda Fischer, director of business relations. “(The new ShopRite) also will have our wellness center, our pharmacy, our dietician, our fitness center and our culinary classes. We have great services to offer.”