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Community members celebrate a National Night Out
Turlock Chief of Police Jason Hedden gives Ismael Silva a tour of his police vehicle (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

The first Tuesday of the month of August has become known across the country as the National Night Out, a community-building campaign that promotes police and neighborhood partnerships. On Tuesday evening, the city of Turlock once again participated in the annual event, hosting events in numerous neighborhoods.

Daniel Briones (right) and his brother Sebastian (middle) play a game of cornhole with one of the many volunteers at Columbia Park (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

In each participating neighborhood and park, community members were treated to free snacks, games, music and other activities.

“It’s so wonderful to have all these kids and families come out and have a good time,” said City of Turlock Event Assistant Amber Traini.

In each neighborhood, there were also dozens of law enforcement and military service members, playing games with children and socializing with attendees.

One law enforcement member who participated in the day’s events was Turlock Chief of Police Jason Hedden. Hedden has been serving as police chief for nearly six months, but this was not his first National Night Out. Previously serving in the Los Banos Police Department, Hedden explained that the National Night Out is always something he looks forward to.

Turlock's Tamali'i O'brien does pullups with the help of local Marines (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

“It’s always an exciting time,” Hedden said. “It’s just outreach, showing people what we do and letting people interact with us.”

While the event is typically a time to have fun, Hedden explained that there is a deeper purpose for the outreach.

“A lot of times, people have a lot of questions they want to ask police, but they don’t want to call. But they can come up and ask those questions and ask about what’s happening in the community. And they can really come talk to us about any problem,” Hedden said.

Considering the fact that Hedden has only been with TPD for about six months, he is also using the day as an opportunity to better connect with the public.

Turlock's Conner Harris remains cool, calm and collected as a friendly snake wraps around his body. The snake was one of the many reptiles that kids had an opportunity to hang out with (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

“I’m so grateful to be here in Turlock and I’m happy to be participating in this with our community for the first time,” he said.

Efrain Juarez Jr. was one of the many children hanging out with law enforcement. After attending the event last year, Tuesday’s Night Out was something he was looking forward to.

“I was here last year and it was super fun,” Juarez said. “They had a ton of games and everything, so when my friend told me they were coming here again, I decided to walk over here and help out.”

The City of Turlock had multiple volunteers from local organizations and youth groups at each neighborhood, but although Juarez’s visit was spontaneous, he was at Columbia Park since 3:30 p.m. and stayed until the festivities ended at 8 p.m.

Mayor Amy Bublak gets cuddly with one of the Cruisin’ Critters at Columbia Park (Photo contributed).

Amid all the activities, additional public figures made appearances, including Mayor Amy Bublak and multiple city councilmembers. Brianna Gonzalez, a spokesperson for Congressman Josh Harder, also showed up to present a certificate of appreciation for the city’s efforts to build community and police relations.

“National Night Out is such an important event because it strengthens our community,” Gonzalez said. “We’re so happy to be here.”

National Night Out is expected to take place in Turlock once again in August of 2023.