National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that is designed to promote police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live, according to the organization.
Melisa Szmurlo spearheaded the event in Arbuckle.
Szmurlo said that the event has a two-fold benefit: to build relationships with law enforcement in a positive environment and to bring the citizens together for an awareness of who belongs in the neighborhood.
“If you know your neighbors, you know who belongs in your neighborhood,” said Szmurlo, quoting an old adage. “It ends up being like everybody knows everybody, like a neighborhood watch but unofficial.”
Szmurlo brought together neighbors with first responders in the Honeygrove neighborhood.
She encouraged others to take the initiative to bring the event to all pockets of Colusa County.
While it would mean that law enforcement and firefighters might have to travel around to the different events and not spend the entire evening in one place, she felt that sharing first responders is better if every county neighborhood could build a positive relationship in the communities served.
Terry and Shirley McCaustland offered their driveway again for the third year as the hub of the buffet. The door-to-door petitions that Szmurlo had requested had been a success. The potluck style was a constant flow of new side dishes and deserts, and the grills were manned by locals. One desert came from Angela Esquibel, who spent two days making a cake in the shape of a police car.
Kati Moore had taught the Szmurlo family how to recreate the Thin Blue Line wooden flags and mason jars embossed with the six-pointed star to represent a police badge that she had previously made and gave to 25-30 people.
A tribute to fallen Davis Police Officer Natalie Corona was respectfully displayed in the welcoming booth with hope that it will inspire young men and women to professions in law enforcement. Blue ribbons that were handmade were given to attendees, along with car decals that were donated by Moore.
“This is also a way of honoring them, making sure that people know that is a sacrifice that we really appreciate,” said Szmurlo.
Posterboards were out for people to express their individual sentiments to each of the first responder agencies present.
The turnout has been increasing exponentially each year.
“There’s a lot more people here than I expected,” said Szmurlo, who pointed out that she set up 80 chairs but even more people were walking around.
Gus McPeek, a bus driver, estimated that the total number of attendees looked as if it could fill a bus and a half, or approximately 150 people.
Deputy Lytal handed out life vests and bicycle helmets, let children explore the Colusa County Sheriff Office’s boat, and spoke about boat patrol on local waterways.
“We’re out on the river,” Lytal said. “We try to get out there a couple times a day, half on the river, half on the lake.”
Watching out for the children on an inflated slide that dropped off into a shallow pool of water, Grace Szmurlo, 10, said she didn’t mind manning the attraction.
Grace said that her favorite part was getting to go down the slide with the children who were afraid and stalled at the top.
According to National Night Out officials, the event enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community.
It provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.
“It’s good to show them what we do; show them we’re not afraid, and that they don’t need to be afraid of us,” Lytal said. ■