Merced County Times Newspaper
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National Night Out Brings Together Local Families, First Responders


It isn’t every day that you find balloon animals, cops on bikes, and a gaggle of cheerleaders all in the same location. That is, unless it’s National Night Out.

Merced families gathered at Kiddieland in Applegate Park on Tuesday evening for National Night Out, a law enforcement event currently celebrating its 40th year. Hosted by the Merced Police Department (MPD), the event allows vendors and local agencies to gather together with music and entertainment in an effort to bring people together.

“The purpose of this event is to bring the whole community together,” said Rosa Alcaraz, the MPD’s community liaison. “People from all kinds of backgrounds are here, and they can meet and talk to us in a relaxed way.”

The atmosphere was both informative and fun. Children enjoyed carnival-style games, face painting, and tours of fire trucks and police vehicles, while adults gained access to information about services provided by local agencies.

The MPD had partnered with other community organizations such as Valley Crisis Center, Behavioral Health, and Adult Protective Services, who all staged booths to make themselves more available to community members. There was music from DJs and local radio stations, and performances from the Merced High School cheer team.

During the event, police officials awarded fundraising proceeds to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The donation is part of their Cops for Critters program, in which the department raises money from a car show and by collecting recyclables to help promote the Applegate Park Zoo.
“We encourage everybody to go out and support our zoo, go see the great animals that are there,” said Lt. Dabney, who presented the check. “It’s a great experience and if you haven’t been, we highly encourage it.”
Local businesses were also present, providing food and sweets to attendees. This was in addition to free hot dogs and popcorn provided by the police department. With cars lined for blocks and the park filled with families, it was the largest turnout and participation the event had ever seen.
“This is the third year I’ve done this, and I thoroughly enjoy it,” said Officer Fister with the Merced Police Department Bomb Squad. “The turnout gets better and better every year. Where else are you going to be able to find so many different organizations together in one place, and get the community together?”
MPD Sergeant McKinnon said he has participated in the National Night Out event for the past 14 years.

“It’s really awesome having this many community members come out,” he told the Times. “It’s changed a lot, it came from a much smaller event. It’s really grown over the years.”

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