LIVINGSTON, NJ - Livingston residents celebrated the 4th annual National Night Out for Livingston on Tuesday at the Livingston Oval. The event, organized by Officers Gary Makowitz, Joy Klapal and Stan Valles, featured safety information and fun for all ages. The Livingston Oval was filled with children running around with happy faces and balloons attached to their wrists.
The event kicked off with this year’s Citizen of the Year award, which was presented to Robert Clark, a lieutenant in the Newark Police Department, and private citizen Heather Shulman. One night Clark noticed some suspicious behavior and reported it to the Livingston Police Department who were then able to prevent a residential break in. Shulman also won the Citizen of the Year for being instrumental in reinvigorating the Neighborhood Watch Program.
The Oval was lined with neighborhood sponsors donating everything from pens, magazines, educational materials and demonstrations, to cold water, pizza & hot dogs. The American Red Cross was excited to talk to people about numerous other services they provide beyond their blood drive, and St. Barnabas Medical Center had a 100 page doctor reference booklet ready for residents to pick up.
Neighboring towns and institutions that do not hold their own National Night Out came to participate, as well. Rutgers Police Lieutenant Hendrix explained that her booth was set up to teach children about “stranger danger” and “after dark safety”. Montclair State Police Officers, Jason Frazler and William Comerro, walked around mingling with their two police dogs. In addition Stevens Institute of Technology, State Corrections, the FBI, NJSPCA and the U.S. Coast Guard were all in attendance.
Other main attractions included the landing of the Atlantic Air Ambulance Helicopter and the Livingston Police Department's water display. Within moments of Captain Paul Papasavas’ landing residents flocked in droves to the shiny lifesaving air craft. And across the field a fire truck sprayed water while young children ran through it like a lawn sprinkler. Teens gathered together in the middle of the field to watch a series of live local bands play original music while tots and elementary schoolers jumped on blow up tubes and slides along the oval entrance.
“Everything happening here is done by volunteers and community donations,” said Officer Stan Valles, one of the three main event organizers. Officer Valles showcased the sponsor board featuring over 60 local companies and organizations that helped sponsor the event.
Even Kulani Prince, the 21 year old Goffin Cockatoo that sings Jingle Bells, came out with her family. Her owner, Marty Prince said that Kulani “has not missed a year yet!” And why would she when it was also a perfect chance to meet Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen or Charles “Chuck” Granata and Allan Feild, who are running for town council?
“The sponsor lists have increased, the participation has increased,” said Livingston Police Captain Gary Marshuetz, “and the event is important because it makes Police officers more approachable. It builds a partnership. The police department can’t fight crime by itself.”
As the event came to a close the oval became busy with volunteers cheerfully breaking down booths. Children took their last choo choo ride around the front of Livingston High and families settled on the green to watch a special viewing of The Muppets.