Somers Point resident Sarah Schaffer sat in a dunk tank Tuesday in Tony Canale Park in Egg Harbor Township waiting for pint-sized hurlers to dunk her, which happened even after the tosses missed their intended target.
A few yards away, Egg Harbor Township Patrolman Kevin Devlin let children test out his BMW RT 2000 police motorcycle as firefighters rappelled from the extended ladder of a firetruck behind him.
Nearby, a live band covered Van Halen’s “Jump” while dozens of kids followed suit by bouncing away in two large inflatable castles.
Those were the sights and sounds Tuesday during National Night Out events held in dozens of area municipalities. National Night Out events were held in all 50 states last year and in 1,500 communities, according to the organization’s website.
Middle Township’s event featured a Harlem Globetrotter, and a fireworks display concluded Vineland’s event.
In Pleasantville’s New Hope Village Community, the MLK Youth Choir sang a joyous version of the gospel song “God Knows How Much We Can Bear” as people in the crowd danced along.
“There should be more things like this in Pleasantville because it makes you feel safer and brings the community together,” said Shaqwana Figaro, 14, of Pleasantville.
That is what city officials hoped to accomplish.
“I’ve been saying since Day One that ‘pride is the compass that will guide us.’ Events like this are about taking pride in Pleasantville, taking ownership of it,’” said Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle Sr., adding more than 500 people attended this year’s event in the city.
“This was a huge success for us. We are really very pleased,” Tweedle said. “It was a going-away party for crime and drugs.”
Communities use National Night Out, which started in 1984, as a tool to help improve crime- and drug-prevention awareness, according to the organization’s website. More than 37 million people participated in the event last year.
And each of the events offered something unique to the communities that hosted them.
Pleasantville resident Charletta Bair, 23, brought her twin boys — Naechaun and Kaechaun, both 6 — out to her hometown event because it offered them a safe entertainment alternative in their urban community.
Egg Harbor Township resident Clayton Himstedt brought his two young daughters — Lilianna, 3, and Tessa, 8 months — to the event in that township because it offered them a chance to meet more people from the sprawling suburban town.
Lilianna, meanwhile, was content just hitting the button to dunk Schaffer after her throws alone were not strong enough to trigger the tank.
“It makes the kids happy, so I don’t mind,” said Schaffer, who was in the tank to help raise money for the township’s police Explorer program.
But emergency responders, such as Devlin, possibly enjoyed the event even more.
Devlin said Egg Harbor Township’s officers already attend a lot of similar community-outreach events, but it would be nice if there were more of them.
“It’s an opportunity to remind people that we’re here to help,” he said.
Devlin smiled as he helped child after child onto his motorcycle, posed for pictures and answered questions — usually the same one.
“They all want to know where the siren is,” he said. “Don’t worry. I turned it off.”
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