By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
National Night Out in Liberal began in 2010 and was an immediate success in the community with nearly 2,000 people attending that night when only a couple hundred were expected to show up.
The Liberal Police Department and the Liberal Parks and Recreation department are teaming up again this year to bring back the city’s fifth National Night Out on Aug. 5 at Blue Bonnet Park.
The now annual event began in 2010 after Jared Ratzlaff, a sergeant with the Liberal Police Department, picked up on it being done in other communities.
“At that point, I was doing a lot of work trying to get neighborhood watches started and doing more community involvement, and I got to finding out a little more about this program and decided ‘let’s try it,’” Ratzlaff said. “So I got ahold of the police department here, some of the higher-ups and then I said ‘this is my idea’ and then they said ‘if you can make it work let’s do it.’”
That night will consist of a dinner sponsored by National Beef and Meisenheimer’s BBQ being served beginning at 5:30 p.m. There will also be booths from several of the community’s civic groups including emergency services, Southern Baptist Church, the Seward County Fire Department and the Liberal Area Rape Crisis Center/Domestic Violence Services set up to not only have games for children in attendance but also to give out safety information.
“I’d say people like coming out to the park and doing festivals and stuff like this and it’s free of charge, doesn’t cost anything so everyone can come out and enjoy the booths we have,” Ronna Stump, activities director for Liberal Parks and Recreation, said. “We’ll also open up the batting cages and all that and just have a good time.”
Along with the games and live entertainment from local citizens, Ratzlaff added the police department will be doing an obstacle course that will simulate intoxicated driving.
“We’ll let you drive through a course just to see it’s not all fun and games and it’s a lot harder than what you think and just open people’s eyes to that,” Ratzlaff said.
There have also been different “themes” throughout the years Liberal has been hosting National Night Out including home safety and car safety. Ratzlaff stressed while the night is mainly about fun and getting the community together, each booth and civic group there that night will be there to also give information about safety and encourages people to ask questions about anything they think of.
Stump added they are still looking for groups who want to set up booths that night and for those interested in setting up a booth, they can contact her at 626-0133.
“Part of it is the community as a whole, they want a community they’re proud of and they want a community their kids feel safe in and where they feel safe sending their kids to the park or to school,” Ratzlaff said. “So the community’s coming together to say ‘this is our town, we are proud of it.’”
“I want people to come out and join us and have fun and learn,” Stump added. “There are different organizations in town who will be there that night who people will be able to get great information from.”