More than 300 residents of all ages joined the Evanston Police Department for National Night Out on Aug. 3rd at Penny Park, 1500 Lake St. The balmy summer evening was ideal for the celebration of police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.
Starting at 5:30 p.m., a steady stream of people carrying blankets and portable chairs made their way into the popular park in the 2nd Ward. Many stopped to order grilled jerk chicken skewers, mac & cheese and other specialties from the Soul & Smoke food truck that was on site. Council member Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, greeted attendees, who came from neighborhoods throughout Evanston.
The event provided an opportunity for Evanston police officers and community members to come together under positive circumstances for food, conversation and fun. Officers had coloring books and other giveaways for children. Young residents also had a chance to sit in the driver’s seat of a police motorcycle and activate the flashing lights.
“I found out about it from the sign on Dodge [Avenue], coming home from work… I’m new to the neighborhood, so I figured this is my opportunity to come out and see what National Night Out is all about,” said Kimberli Preister.
Three generations of Preister’s family attended the celebration. Preister, who sat on the lawn with her daughter, Chimere Barton, and granddaughter, Logyn, said she was born and raised in Evanston, and had recently returned to live in the community.
By 7 p.m., the crowd had settled on the lawn for a Starlight Movie in the Park featuring “Jumanji: The Next Level,” presented by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. There was no need to wait until dark. This summer, residents enjoyed outdoor cinema on a bright, new digital screen that can show movies at any time of the day.
National Night Out, held nationwide on the first Tuesday of every August, was introduced in August of 1984 through an already established network of law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch groups, civic groups, state and regional crime prevention associations and volunteers across the nation.
Evanston neighbors were among the millions who took part in the event across thousands of communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases nationwide.
Although activities were canceled last year due to the pandemic, National Night Out has in recent years been celebrated in Evanston at parks and community centers throughout the City. This year festivities were limited to Penny Park.
Originally built in 1990 through a community build process, Penny Park was renovated in 2017 with safety upgrades. Due to its popularity, the original wood design for play structures was maintained, according to City documents.