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More than a party

POSTED June 18, 2010 6:44 p.m.

Growing up in Indiana, one of the best things about summer was the community backyard.

In the Midwest, most people do not fence in their yards. This means that in a housing subdivision you can usually walk two to three blocks through backyards before you get stopped by a fence or street. In summer, all the neighborhood kids would meet up in the center of the backyards of a circular block for an Olympic-style game competition.

We played football, kickball, baseball and tug of war. We would bring out all the water pistols we could find and have a red team versus blue team water war.  Sometimes, we would just roll around the grass until we were dizzy with the freedom of summer.

Another perk of the community backyard was the traveling barbecue. If one family decided to barbecue in their backyard, every kid in the neighborhood would keep watch on the grill, tongues out waiting for the inevitable: “Would you like a hotdog, kids?”

I knew the names of every kid from kindergarten through high school in my neighborhood, along with their parents’ names and their grilling specialty.

Ahhh, the good old days!

In California, where backyards are secluded hideaways rather than an extension of the neighborhood, one must venture onto the sidewalk to find social interaction.

I have found that Californians do use community parks more than the average Midwesterner, which is also a good way to strengthen societal bonds. But there is nothing like the mi casa es su casa sentiment of a block party.

The Turlock Police and Fire departments are encouraging Turlockers to get out and meet their neighbors during the National Night Out campaign. The nationwide event is designed to create public awareness on issues relating to crime prevention by getting people together to talk about their neighborhoods through block parties, barbecues and social gatherings. This year’s event will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 3.

Each group or block that registers with the Turlock Police Department for the National Night Out event will receive visits from police and fire members and receive giveaways for the kids. This year, those who register their party with the police department will also be entered in a drawing for various prizes including a bounce house rental, pizza for the night of the event, car washes and more.

I can’t think of a better way to prevent crime than to show the criminals that the people of Turlock look out for each other. Knowing the names of your neighbors and their children can make all the difference when a burglar tries a gutsy daytime heist thinking no one will know the difference. And if you come home to a dark house that doesn’t quite seem the way you left it, knowing that your neighbor’s house is available as a safe refuge is a comforting thought.

I encourage everyone to say “hello” the next time you see your neighbor mowing their lawn or checking their mailbox. The upcoming National Night Out event is a perfect ice breaker to start that important conversation that could one day make all the difference.

For more information about the Turlock National Night Out event, contact Crime Prevention Officer Taryn Weatherford at 656-3153. Applications for street closure are due by July 9.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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