Crowds return for National Night Out

Neighbors come out to meet first responders across Midlothian as pandemic begins to ease

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian paramedics Andrew Gatlin and Brandon Rogers pose with kids for a photo at T.E. Baxter Elementary during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

In a growing town 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.

A sign at the entrance to the Rosebud neighborhood proclaims Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

With the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic loosening, citizens came in out in droves for the annual community event Tuesday evening, Oct. 5, with numerous block parties set up across Midlothian. One of the largest parties in the city was held at T.E. Baxter Elementary School, where five neighborhoods in the area gathered.

Ellis County sheriff's deputy Gage Adams demonstrates an arrest at T.E. Baxter Elementary during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

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.

Midlothian Assistant Chief Scott Brown visits with residents in Cottonwood Estates during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Enthusiastic neighbors came out to enjoy food and fellowship. Kids played games on the school’s lawn and jumped around in bounce houses as parents mingled, dined on hot dogs and signed up for raffles and giveaways.

Local first responders meet with residents at T.E. Baxter Elementary during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

“Last year it was very small,” said Kim Ogden, site organizer for NNO at Baxter. “This year we had a very good response, and (also) the outreach of people coming out to help.”

Midlothian Officer Taylor Boler visits with Steve Roland at the Lighthouse Coffee Bar during Midlothian's National Night Out event on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Midlothian police and fire first responders came out to meet and greet residents, as well as deputies with the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department.

Kids negotiate a "police academy course" on the grounds of T.E. Baxter Elementary during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

“It’s gone from two or three places to a couple of dozen,” said firefighter paramedic Brandon Rogers, a 13-year veteran of the Midlothian Fire Department. “We always want to be a part of the community and be involved in the community. It’s a big boost for us when we come out and meet the community — in a good way, not the emergency way.”

Midlothian Police Chief Carl Smith (third from right) and Assistant Chief Scott Brown (on right) pose with officers at a block party on Apple Lane during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

NNO is fun not only for veterans, but also for new members of the force. Patrolman Phillip Evitt was enjoying his second NNO almost exactly a year since graduating from field training, and said the participation this year compared to last year was much greater.

“I feel like people are more comfortable and now they have an excuse to get out,” Evitt said. “It’s nice to see people out again, talking to each other. Neighbors are talking to each other again. I love to see this.”

Members of the REACH Council provide information and award prizes at T.E. Baxter Elementary during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

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.

A girl goes down the slide on the grounds of T.E. Baxter Elementary during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

National Night Out 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.

A booth provides information on kids' events on the grounds of T.E. Baxter Elementary during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

In all, 27 neighborhoods participated in the annual event, which is up from last year when Midlothian placed first in Texas and sixth in the country among towns with fewer than 50,000 population. 

Officer Mills is pictured with his wife Brooke Mills and their two children at the Long Branch event during Midlothian's National Night Out on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

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.