Northern Berks Regional Police Department hosted its inaugural National Night Out with about 1,200 community members in attendance on Aug. 7.

Held for residents of Leesport and Maidencreek and Ontelaunee townships, the event held at the Rajah Shrine in Maidencreek Township featured vendors, free food, drinks, music, kids activities, fireworks and, of course, a lot of rain.

“I think what the community gained was the opportunity to interact with all of the law enforcement and first responders and getting to know who protects them everyday. And for them to know that we are human just like them,” said Northern Berks Regional Police Chief Brian Horner. “We had a DJ there. We had officers up and dancing. I ended up getting into the dunk tank.”

Attendees also had a chance to vote for their choice of officer to kiss a pig.

“I was voted to kiss the pig,” said Horner. “It was pretty cool. Everybody was laughing.”

2018 marks the 35th year for National Night Out, which, according to the National Night Out website at https://natw.org/about, is an “annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.”

The Northern Berks Regional Police event was one among 16,000 communities nationwide to participate in National Night Out this year.

Norhern Berks Police invited local fire companies and EMS. Participants included Blandon, Leesport, Ruscombmanor, Walnuttown, Virginville, Alsace fire companies, Northern Berks EMS and local fire police including from Lyons and Blandon.

The Berks County Honor Guard opened the event. A blessing was provided by Pastor Fran Merkel of St. John’s Gernat’s. The National Anthem was sung by Emily Walbert. They gave away at least 10 door prizes along with a flatscreen TV. Pastor Sarah Hertzog of Maidencreek Church did the closing of National Night Out. Taps were performed by Brian Heydt to close the event.

Fireworks by International Fireworks of Douglassville were also held.

“People said it was one of the best fireworks shows they’ve seen,” said Horner. “Highlights were that it was all free food. They had a lot games for kids, vendors from all different businesses, a dunk tank, a petting zoo, Heebies Monster Truck in attendance and more.”

There were about 38 vendors on site and more than 60 businesses donated toward the event.

“The biggest three sponsors that really made this happen with donations was the Leesport Diner, Steve Moyer Subaru and Nissan dealerships, and Rajah Shrine in Maidencreek Township,” said Horner.

A date set has been set for next year’s event, Aug. 6, 2019. The department hopes to host it at the same location. Everyone who participated this year wants to participate next year, said Horner.

“We’re definitely looking forward to next year. I want it to be bigger next year, a lot bigger and hopefully get a lot more of the community out to enjoy themselves with a free night of entertainment.”

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