Wadsworth firefighters demonstrate how to extricate someone from a vehicle during National Night Out on Tuesday night. The annual nationwide event gives community members an opportunity to interact with first responders. NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE
Children honked horns on police cars and took turns extinguishing a mock fire during Tuesday’s annual National Night Out in the Target parking lot. in Wadsworth
“It is a national event that goes on across the country tonight,” said Wadsworth police Detective Matt Markley, the local event organizer.
Markley said National Night Out in Wadsworth began 13 years ago, and provides a way for first responders to interact with area residents.
“(It) builds bridges to let them know don’t be afraid of us, we are very friendly, we are approachable,” he said.
Aiden Meisterics, 9, took the opportunity to get behind the steering wheel in one of the city’s firetrucks.
“I just really liked that they are red and they are my favorite color,” Aiden said.
Fire Chief Robert Lindner said the event is a nice way for first responders to be able to give back to the community.
“It is fun, you get to show the community some of the things that we have, and in fact, the community has paid for most of this (equipment) with the taxes and the levies.”
One activity involved kids putting on a pair of goggles designed to simulate the effects of being intoxicated and trying to perform simple tasks like picking up coins, walking a straight line and balancing on one foot.
“They give you blurred vision to different degrees,” police Lt. Dave Dorland said.
Markley said Target has been a great partner in the program.
The big box retailer at 1183 Williams Reserve Blvd. provided hot dogs, chips and drinks for the community.
Ann Kagarise of Wadsworth brought grandkids Ricky, 5, Sarah, 3, and Levi, 2, so they could get an up-close look at the emergency vehicles.
“They absolutely love police and fire, they love getting in the cars, so I thought they would be all about that,” she said.
According to the organization’s website, National Night Out began 35 years ago, and is occurring in 16,000 communities across the United States and in U.S. territories and military bases around the world.
“It builds memories,” Markley said. “They can come out here and meet firemen face to face they might not get to and see us in a whole different light.”