Now here’s something you may not know: National Night Out, an event designed to strengthen relationships between the public and law enforcement, is supposed to be held throughout various neighborhoods of the small town it’s in.
For whatever reason, that idea hasn’t been met with much enthusiasm in Andover.
Instead, the Police Department has hosted one large event for the entire community. Last weekend it was held in Central Park. It drew between 600 and 700 people on a Saturday night that was warm but not unbearable. They enjoyed free ice cream, pizza, burgers, hot dogs and drinks. A fire hose was on hand to cool down the kids. Smiling police officers were everywhere – giving demonstrations, sitting in the dunk tank, or just visiting with people.
By all accounts, it was a successful night.
Still, Andover Police Chief Mike Keller would like for the event to be compiled of block parties around town.
“That is what National Night Out is supposed to be about,” Keller said. “Neighbors, taking back their streets from crime, getting out in their front yards and meeting their neighbors.”
There is another issue that may mean Andover will be sever its ties with National Night Out.
The normal date for National Night Out is the first Tuesday of August. That’s when Andover had it originally scheduled this year, until an explosion in a Butler County propane factory called away its police and firemen.
Aug. 2, 2011 also happened to be the hottest day of the year.
That’s part of the reason this was the last year Wichita participated in National Night Out. Next year, it will have a similar event in October as part of “Celebrate Safe Communities.”
So Keller is considering moving Andover’s date – possibly to either May, June, September or October, he said – to avoid the excessive heat. That probably means it wouldn’t be a part of National Night Out, but Keller said there would still be a community-wide event in the same spirit.
There won’t have anything definite on plans for next year, Keller said, until after Thursday’s debriefing of this year’s event.
“Nothing is in stone yet," Keller said. "Just things that we are considering, as a way of improving our event.”
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The trouble with fall
Greater Andover Days is by far the city’s most popular event, attracting about 5,000 people a year with activities like concerts, fireworks, carnival rides and various competitions. This year GAD is Sept. 29-Oct. 1, which is a consistent date with years past.
“I don’t think there’s any magic date,” said Carol Knolla, who has volunteered for the event since 2005 and enters her third year as the GAD chair. “There’s been times when it’s been really cold, and it’s been really hot, too. But overall, we can’t complain. We’ve been lucky.”
If National Night Out were also held in the fall, would it be competing with GAD? Knolla doesn’t think so. But there’s also something to be said for spacing Andover’s main events apart throughout the year, since so many of them rely on the same sponsors and volunteers. There would be a risk of losing the energy of an event if it were too close to GAD.
GAD will have the same events as last year – things like the fun run, car show and hot dog eating contest – with one exception. The Miss Andover pageant will not be a part of GAD. There’s been speculation it may resurface at Hometown Christmas this December, since it needs to be part of a community event to be official, but an organizer for the pageant has not returned phone calls.
Too darn hot
Like National Night Out, organizers for “The Ride” are also considering some changes.
A poker run that raises money for community causes, including the Andover Police and Fire Foundation, The Ride has been held in July for the past two years.
Timbuktu Bar and Grill owner Michelle Sell, who organizes The Ride with the Fire and Iron Club, is worried the July heat is keeping the event from having more participants. The poker run starts at 9 a.m. and includes a 100-mile drive, mostly motorcycle riders, throughout Butler County.
Kansas has similar poker runs starting in March and going through October, Sell said. She doesn’t want The Ride to conflict with other motorcycle-oriented events in the area.
“There really is no good time to do it,” Sell said. “Anything’s a possibility. We are looking at a (new) date, but the weather is always a huge issue. You’re taking a risk with rain in the springtime, and it could be cold and snowing in the fall.”
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Adam Knapp is Editor-in-Chief of the American American. He can be reached at email@example.com.