PILOT MOUNTAIN — Since 1984, cities across the country have set aside one August night where citizens and area law enforcement and emergency services can gather together on an informal basis, and last night the town of Pilot Mountain did its part to continue the long-standing tradition.
Hundreds of residents from across the county converged in downtown Pilot Mountain for this year’s National Night Out celebration.
According to www.natw.org, National Night Out is a project of the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the development and promotion of various crime prevention programs including neighborhood watch groups, law enforcement agencies, state and regional crime prevention associations, businesses, civic groups, and individuals, devoted to safer communities.”
This year’s event featured representatives from agencies from across the county, with participants including the Mount Airy, Dobson and Elkin police departments, Surry County Sheriff’s Office, Surry County Animal Control, and area fire departments and rescue squads.
The event once again featured a popular dunking booth, free hot dogs and the favorite driving while impaired pedal car, where participants put on goggles that mimic the effects of alcohol and attempt to navigate an obstacle course.
But for attendee Ray Floyd, who drove from Rockford for his first-ever visit to the event, it is more about the cross-section of the community mingling with law enforcement.
“This is my first time out here this year,” he said as he munched on a free hot dog. “This is just great, I love to see the community getting together. It’s awesome.”
Which is just what Sheriff Graham Atkinson said he wanted.
“We see a lot of the same people coming out year after year,” he said. “And that represents this event well. Everyone seems to be having a good time.
“We look forward to this every year because it gives people a chance to see law enforcement officers in a much less stressful and dramatic setting than they might see them otherwise, and it’s good for children to see our officers in a positive environment.”
Celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary at the event, Pilot Mountain Police Sergeant R.D. Bingman, this year’s organizer, echoed Atkinson.
“We want to get people involved with local emergency services and let them know that we care and we’re out there for them if they need us. It lets them see us in a different light, not in a needy situation, but in a more friendly, casual atmosphere. We want to give them a chance to come out, maybe be educated a little bit and have a little bit of fun.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.