HARKER HEIGHTS — Safety was the central theme Saturday during the first National Night Out Party in the Park at the Harker Heights Community Park.

The party served as the kickoff for National Night Out on Oct. 1, a nationwide event designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and send messages to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

“We had a great turnout and we have a lot of different businesses come together to show their support,” said Dave Haley, the Harker Heights Police Department’s community services officer. “I couldn’t have asked for a better day, weather-wise, to have this event.”

At Saturday’s gathering, people signed up to host a neighborhood block party Oct. 1, while booths offered information about ways residents can keep their homes and neighborhoods safe.

“I really enjoyed spending time with my family today,” said Hanna Parrish, 7.

Her sister, Shayna Carlson, 9, couldn’t contain her excitement.

“I loved today all the free stuff that’s here for us to do,” she said.

The event boasted everything from food safety tips to animal safety. Free fun included bounce houses, face painting and games for children as well as an opportunity to explore fire trucks, police SWAT vehicles and even a medical evacuation helicopter.

McGruff the Crime Dog, Sparky the Fire Dog and H-E-B’s Buddy interacted with the crowd.

“This event is great,” said Sarah Parrish, a Harker Heights resident. “We saw the sign for it at Target and the kids were looking for something to do, and they are just loving everything.”

The first 2,000 participants were treated to free hot dogs, chips, drinks and pizza all donated by Target, Walmart, H-E-B and Papa John’s.

Contact Vanessa Lynch at vlynch@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7567.

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