LIVINGSTON, NJ - Livingston celebrated its fifth annual National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 6 at the Livingston Oval. The event was organized by Officers Gary Makowitz and Joy Klapal and featured safety information as well as games and events for all ages. All through the evening, the Livingston Oval was filled with people enjoying hot dogs and soft drinks, and children running around with painted faces.  

The event began with a prayer from Pastor Msgr. Thomas Nydegger and was followed by this year’s Citizen of the Year Award presentation by the Livingston Police Department to Nia Mallory. Mallory received the award for aiding the police in preventing a theft at West Minister Hotel in Livingston. She captured the attempted robbery on her camera phone and immediately sent the evidence to the authorities. The culprit was subsequently caught and arrested. “We’re very glad when people aid the police like this. It’s what it’s all about,” said Gary Makowitz, Livingston Police Captain.

The oval was lined with neighborhood sponsors donating everything from pens, magazines, educational materials and demonstrations, to cold water, pizza and hot dogs. Representatives of Clarendon Adult Day Center set up a tent to inform residents about their company’s mission to provide healthcare and daycare to seniors. Volunteer outfits, such as Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter, and local businesses, such as Regal Bank, offered information about their organizations’ services to attendees as well as complimentary toys, such as Frisbees.  

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“This event is a partnership between the community, the police department and local businesses. Everything has been donated from the food, to the displays, to the presentations,” said Marshuetz.

Police Chief Craig Handschuch added a similar sentiment, saying, “We’re thankful for our business’s to come out and donate food and drink. Without them, none of this would be possible.” He added that all of his fellow police officers volunteered their time for this event and expressed pride in that knowledge.

Neighboring towns and institutions that do not hold their own National Night Out also came to participate in festivities, as well. The Millburn Police Department headed a display to teach residents about drug safety. Officer Edward R. de la Fuente of the Millburn Township said it was his first time at Livingston’s National Night Out and that he was happy to help parents and youths understand the dangers of drugs. Near the entrance, the National Guard set up a rock wall for children to climb on. Sargent Damiano representing the National Guard at the event, along with Sgt. Sarni and Sgt. Kim, said that the National Guard attended the event for the sole purpose of, “supporting National Night Out and drug awareness.”

Other main attractions included the landings of both the Atlantic Air Ambulance Helicopter and the NorthSTAR Helicopter. Within moments of the both aircrafts touching the ground, residents swarmed, trying to catch a peek at how the helicopters worked. Across the field, the Livingston Fire Department set up one of their fire trucks to spray water. Children ran across the Oval lawn and under the falling water droplets from the fire hose like it was a lawn sprinkler. A Rolling Video Games theater was also featured at the event. Children lined up into a long trailer to try their hand at the newest games on Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.

As National Night Out came to a close teens and families alike gathered together in the middle of the Oval to watch a series of live local bands play original music. Going Dark headlined the event, playing in front of their hometown crowd for the first time since their inception. They boasted an impressive light show just for the occasion.

National Night Out festivities are held nationwide and are meant to increase awareness about police anti-crime programs that are taking place in communities. Last year, over 37 million people in all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories, Canada and military bases worldwide participated in the yearly event.