Floats and fun - East County celebrates National Night Out
Detective Brandon Crate took lead on a tough assignment earlier this week, as he joined a major deployment into downtown Gresham.
The response was comprised of both Gresham Fire & Emergency Services, with three fire engines, and the Gresham Police Department, which had the full cadet squad, SWAT and its mobile command center. Everything was centered in a vacant lot across from the popular Splash Pad at the Gresham Arts Plaza, 401 N.E. Second St.
The mission — serve ice cream to hungry kids in a fun, family-friendly environment.
"It's really rewarding seeing all the smiles on the kids' faces," Crate said with a smile of his own. "Any time we can be in the position to connect with community members is awesome."
The first responders worked together with community partners to host Gresham Night Out — held on National Night Out Tuesday evening, Aug. 3. The event had police officers and firefighters serving root beer floats to community members, while showcasing various gear and vehicles to excited youths.
"When I put all this gear on, I'm 60 pounds heavier," said Officer Ryan Rasmussen to a group of wide-eyed kids who were trying on bullet-proof vests and tactical helmets.
The evening of floats and fun was organized by both the Fire and Police departments. They teamed up with Keurig Dr. Pepper, Columbia Distributing and The Mobile Scoop Shop to serve more than 300 floats and scoops of ice cream.
"We wanted to put our heroes back in the spotlight," said Brad Magden, with Keurig Dr. Pepper.
The gathering at the Splash Pad was one of many regional block parties to take place across East Multnomah County. Neighbors came together in celebration of National Night Out, an annual event dedicated to heightening crime prevention awareness, strengthening community spirit and demonstrating unity between local neighborhoods and law enforcement.
"National Night Out brings the community together," said Michael Gonzales, Gresham neighborhood and community enhancement manager. "It brings first responders and neighbors together under positive circumstances in a stress-free environment with a goal of working together to create a safer and more resilient community."
Night to remember
The biggest party on National Night Out, however, took place in Fairview, where organizers transformed Community Park, 21600 N.E. Park Lane, into a massive block party for the whole family.
For Community Night Out, they closed the roads around City Hall and created a festival-like atmosphere. There was live music, two bounce castles, a rock climbing wall, food, community resources and more. Many who attended considered the event a picnic, spreading blankets and enjoying each other's company.
Everything was family-friendly, and allowed residents to chat with Multnomah County Sheriff's Office deputies as well as Gresham firefighters, who provide service for the city.
National Night Out began in 1970 in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, and quickly spread across the country. In East Multnomah County, community members have been hosting fun outings for decades. The day is usually marked with picnics, music, fun and games for kids, and a chance to bond with others in the community.
Last year, everything was put on hold with the pandemic, and things are still slowly returning to normal. That meant the 2021 National Night Out was a smaller affair than in years past. Most of the events were block parties hosted by various Gresham Neighborhood Associations.
The Oneonta Townhomes hosted an annual party on Fourth and Fifth streets between Hood and Roberts near downtown. There was the ninth annual cul-de-sac block party in the Bella Vista neighborhood; and there was the ninth annual Rockwood "Blockwood" Neighborhood Party in the 800 block of Southeast 178th Avenue.
"This is a great excuse to take a break from the daily grind (and) step outside to enjoy the beautiful summer evenings," Gonzales said.
For the Gresham officers at the Arts Plaza, the best part was chatting with the children. National Night Out is something the department looks forward to every year, and furthers Gresham's goal of breaking down divisions between law enforcement and the community.
"It is important for us to talk to kids (while) in uniform, and show we are approachable," Crate said. "We need to get rid of the stigma that we are bad guys."
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