Photo Gallery | 2016 National Night Out in North Adams
NORTH ADAMS — On most days, a swarm of fire, police, and ambulance vehicles would signal bad news.
But for four hours on Tuesday, the city's emergency responders were busy grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, taking turns falling into the dunk tank, and chatting with residents. North Adams neighborhood organizations and emergency responders joined forces to hold the first citywide National Night Out event and cookout at Noel Field.
In the past, neighborhood leaders had held separate events for National Night Out throughout the city, partly due to concerns about transportation, but this year the efforts were joined into one event. The steady flow of visitors early on indicated to community leaders that the new format was a success.
"I think [hosting the event] is very important," said North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, still wet after children had launched balls at a target that, when struck, dropped him into a pool of water below. "Police are part of the community, and the community is part of the police."
The idea began with the North Adams police officers who wanted to hold a summer cookout for the community. After brainstorming with the city's other emergency services, neighborhood leaders, and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, the cookout concept was integrated into National Night Out, which was consolidated to a single location.
Leaders from the Greylock Valley Apartments, Mohawk Forest Apartments, Brayton Hill Apartments, and United Neighborhood Organization area were quick to jump on board, according to Jessica Sweeney, a program associate for the Community Coalition's Northern Berkshire Neighbors. To provide as much access to the free event as possible, transportation was provided from the Houghton Street playground and three apartment complexes across the city.
National Night Out events are held in communities throughout the country on the first Tuesday of August, with a goal of bridging the gap between communities and emergency responders as well as increasing neighborhood safety. According to the National Association of Town Watch, which oversees the event, more than 16,000 communities participate in the program every year.
In addition to the pure fun at Tuesday's event — like the bounce house — the evening featured educational components, including a demonstration of a house fire and sprinkler system by the North Adams Fire Department.
Fire Director Stephen Meranti noted that when people see first responders, it can often be one of the worst events in their lives. But on Tuesday, there were only smiles.
"It seems like it's been a pretty good event," Meranti said.
In addition to North Adams Emergency Services, the event was sponsored by the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Northern Berkshire Neighbors, United Neighborhood Organization, Brayton Hill Action Committee, Mohawk Forest and Greylock Valley Apartments.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376