By Debbie Adams
In normal times, National Night Out celebrations – including the one in Vinton – are held across the country on the first Tuesday in August as a way of bringing the community and law enforcement together informally to build relationships. This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the national organization asked localities to postpone their celebrations to October 6.
In past years Vinton police officers have grilled hot dogs for the community, served ice cream, and provided games and bouncy houses for the children, along with fire trucks and police vehicles on display for them to explore.
Town residents typically bring their lawn chairs and settle down to visit with their police force, and members of Town Council and town staff, accompanied by lots of hugging and laughter in a family reunion-type atmosphere.
Due to the pandemic, much of that changed this year – more fist bumping than hugging, individually bagged fresh popcorn instead of hot dogs, and a movie instead of games. But what a movie experience it was. A gigantic movie screen was erected on the lawn of the Vinton War Memorial for a showing of “Zootopia.”
The lawn was marked off with wooden stakes and pink tape, socially distanced for families, and fenced off to create an entrance to the site. There were still lawn chairs and even blankets on the grass.
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose opened the evening by thanking the Vinton officers for their efforts in continuing the National Night Out tradition when other localities turned to virtual events.
“We try to be safe and go by the CDC guidelines and still have a good time,” Grose said. He added that their effort to support the community through the event was “a symbol of what they do every day.”
Vinton Town Council cancelled the regular first Tuesday council meeting, as is the custom, to meet informally with citizens. The event is seen as an opportunity for the police, council members, town staff, and the Chamber of Commerce to greet the public in a relaxed setting.
Interim Police Chief Fabricio Drumond thanked those in attendance, and also Dave’s Moonwalks & More for providing the big movie screen and Grand Rental for supplying the popcorn machine.
Drumond noted the obstacles the police department and town faced this year in organizing National Night Out, but said, “through resiliency we can still get together safely.”
Vinton Girl Scout Troop 94 came to the party to “celebrate you as our local heroes,” bringing a gift bag for each officer.
Vinton officials and citizens often express their appreciation for the Vinton Police Department, their philosophy of community policing, and their involvement in the community.
“We are truly blessed to have a very professional and caring police department that knows and understands the Town of Vinton,” said Mayor Grose. “The Vinton Police Department not only talks about Community Policing – they practice it every day. The National Night Out event is just one example of the effort made by our police department to connect with the citizens of our great community. Of course, the police are in attendance at all of our special events in town, and they support activities at various apartment complexes and schools throughout the year. In addition, many of the officers take a personal interest in individual citizens of Vinton. There are many examples of our officers making an extra effort to ensure that people are safe, have the food they need, or even help replace a stolen bicycle. The list of good deeds performed by the Vinton Police Department is long and very heartwarming.
“The Vinton Police Department has earned the respect and appreciation of the Vinton community,” Grose added. “Good treats can usually be found at the Vinton Police headquarters because our citizens often bring food as a way of showing their gratitude for our officers. An obvious requirement of any great community, such as Vinton, is to provide for the safety and welfare of its citizens and businesses. The Vinton Police Department excels in providing a necessary, professional service for the Town of Vinton while remaining a familiar, approachable part of our community. The Town of Vinton is indeed very fortunate to have the Vinton Police Department!”
“I feel that we have the absolutely best police department,” said Vice Mayor Sabrina McCarty. “They are always present at our community festivities and are very active in our local schools. They truly care about our citizens and the well-being of our town.”
“During this pandemic our nation is facing, most police departments around the country canceled their National Night Out,” said Councilman Keith Liles. “Our police department wanted to find a way to get the community together in a safe and fun way. I appreciate their ability to think outside the box and continue to connect with the community. We are truly blessed to have the men and women who are dedicated to serve and protect our town.”
“In speaking with Chief Drumond, you can see how excited he is about getting to have National Night Out in some capacity,” said Councilwoman Laurie Mullins. “He is working hard to make sure safety measures are taken while still being able to have the officers meet the community. It’s important to the whole department to interact on a relaxed, fun level, and not just on job-related calls.”
“One of the biggest attributes of our police department is allowing citizens to touch them, talk with them, and eat with them in the community,” said Councilman Mike Stovall. “Most of the time when people encounter the police, it is not in a social setting. Our police department goes out of its way to be involved in the community with their strong policy on community policing.
They support the community by getting to know people – citizens, business owners, and students in the schools. Knowing people and people getting to know officers personally speaks volumes for our leadership!”