In a growing city like Midlothian with lots of new subdivisions, National Night Out is a golden opportunity for new residents to come out and bond with their new neighbors.
The annual community event took place Tuesday evening, with numerous block parties set up across the city. One such party was held in Hillstone Estates, a new neighborhood in the southern part of town between FM 663 and 14th Street.
“This is the first one in our neighborhood,” said Patrick McDivit, who along with his wife Karen coordinated the block party in Hillstone Estates. “Next year we may do something more extravagant, but this year we’re ironing out the kinks and bugs.”
The national event is scheduled annually for the first Tuesday in August, but Texas and other select areas celebrate NNO on the first Tuesday in October, when the weather is usually much milder. Not this time, however, with temperatures well into the 90s and humidity to match.
The abnormal early-fall heat wave, though, did little to dampen the enthusiasm of neighbors as they came out to enjoy food and fellowship.
Kids played in the blocked-off street, jumped around in bounce houses or went around back to pet a couple of goats from a nearby farm as parents mingled, dined on hot dogs and signed up for raffles and giveaways.
Midlothian police officers came out to meet and greet residents, and police Lt. Clay Regan demonstrated the department’s unmanned aircraft system, or UAS, in flight.
“The event continues to gain in popularity and turnout,” Regan said. “We were highly-ranked last year for our size, especially in the state and in the United States. As more people come to Midlothian, obviously the more people this event will have. It’s nice to see these new neighborhoods get together because this is what this is all about, meeting your neighbor.”
National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for and participation in local anti-crime efforts; strengthen neighborhood spirit and police community partnerships; and send a message to criminals letting them know neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
NNO began as an annual event in 1984, and has grown to involve 38 million residents in 16,000 communities across the U.S. in 2016, according to the National Association of Town Watch, which sponsors the event.
“We’ve been participating in it for 10 or 11 years now,” Officer Scott Hughes, the Midlothian PD’s community services and crime prevention officer, said last month. “It started on a smaller level with several neighborhood locations and it’s grown every year.”
On Tuesday, Regan said Midlothian had a total of eight block parties scheduled across town, with a couple of businesses also hosting events.
Tuesday was a family-friendly event geared toward creating a spirit of unity in the city. Local businesses, churches, first responders and residents partner each year to make the event possible.
McDivit said the city made it very easy for him and his wife to set up the block party for his neighborhood.
“The city of Midlothian is really active in this,” he said. “We came from Arlington and didn’t have anything like this. Even people we talked to who came from Mansfield said they didn’t have anything like this. I have to give a lot of credit to the city and the police department, because they’re the most proactive. They gave us money for this and donated a bunch of stuff ... That really speaks to the community feel of Midlothian.”
With the Hillstone event a seeming success, McDivit is hoping to make the neighborhood’s NNO event even bigger next year.
“We have a big strip of land that our HOA is talking about sodding and irrigating,” he said. “Having an area for the neighborhood to use for something like this.”