Hundreds of residents of the city of Dunkirk joined 9,000 other communities celebrating National Night Out Tuesday night in Washington Park.
Dunkirk Chief of Police David Ortolano was very pleased with the turnout.
"We've got a good-sized crowd. I'm very pleased." He was also pleased with the setup and sound system in the gazebo, where the duo Nick and Andy played. "The band sounds good. It's a really nice night - I couldn't have ordered better weather."
OBSERVER Staff Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Nani Quinones, Zoraida Nieves and Anahi DeJesus came out to enjoy Dunkirk’s National Night Out and received balloons with other kids of all ages from Dunkirk Police officers.
Ortolano said the event is a "great opportunity" for law enforcement to interact with the community, "especially with young kids. It's great to be able to get out and interact with them in a positive way."
About 10 officers came out on their own time to hand out balloons and other toys. Dozens upon dozens of kids of all ages lined up for balloons, while others got in line for the bounce house next to the gazebo. Officer Kris Sosinski brought out the K-9, Gino. Kids and parents enjoyed petting Gino, who welcomed the attention.
Pizza, cookies, soda, water and other refreshments were all for the hundreds in attendance. The movie "Cars 2," presented through the Development Department's Movies in the Park program, began just before 9 p.m. for the large crowd to enjoy from picnic tables and the lawn after the band finished playing.
Ortolano said he was impressed with the crowd and the turnout. "We've had at least three if not close to four hundred all night," he said. He also credited neighborhood watch members who help with the event. "I couldn't do it without them. The neighborhood watch folks are the ones who help me out with this, and they make it all happen. My hat is off to them."
One of those community watch leaders, Arlene Langendorfer, said she's worked with Ortolano for the event for each of the 19 years Dunkirk has celebrated it. "I'm one of the originals," she mused.
Langendorfer said in years past, the event was spread throughout the city, but she prefers the central location in the park. "This is so much better. The police come, the fire department comes, and they can stay with the kids and really interact with them. Before, they had to get in the cars and then go around to four or even seven locations. It's much better now," she said.
Despite budget cuts, Langendorfer said the event is always a good time. "The chief (Ortolano) really does a lot with limited funds. And Blasdell Pizza really stepped up and donated the pizzas this year. That was a really big thing for them to do, because otherwise, we probably wouldn't have been able to have as much food."
Ortolano said in addition to Blasdell Pizza donation, the local sponsors are a crucial part of making the event special. Tops Markets, Walmart, Paper Factory, P&G Foods, Privitera Farms, Express Printing, Southpaw Signs, McDonald's Restaurant, Pepsi, Peide Tents, Midtown Realty and Petri Baking were all sponsors of the event. "We really appreciate it. We couldn't do it without them," Ortolano said.
National Night Out, founded in 1984, is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) and is an effort to develop trust and relationships between local police departments and the community. NATW is a nonprofit crime prevention organization which works in cooperation with thousands of crime watch groups and law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
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