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With the Aug. 3 National Night Out crime prevention celebration being expanded to Main Street in downtown Galax to accommodate an expected 2,500-plus people, there is more room for activities and representation from community organizations.
National Night Out, a free community event hosted by Twin County Crime Prevention Coalition, will be from 6 to 9 p.m. on Grayson and Main streets.
Featured activities include pony rides, face painting and bounce houses; music from DJ Stone and band Southern Express; free hot dogs; door prizes; for the first time, a hot dog-eating contest; and representation from more than 40 non-profit groups, churches and local officials.
The event has been extended an hour to allow the public more time to enjoy the games and music.
“When you see children and adults dancing and having fun, it’s hard to say ‘Stop. Let’s go home,’” said Galax Police Sgt. Chris Brown, a coordinator of the event.
“In past years, many stuck around after the event ended, so we just decided to extend it one more hour, because two hours was just too short to do everything. We just wanted to make it official.”
Businesses can set up at the event to promote themselves through providing handouts, giveaway items and activities for children. Churches are invited to participate, also.
“Churches play a role in crime prevention,” Brown said. “And it’s about making it a safe city every day, all day.”
Last year, Galax’s National Night Out ranked 11th in the nation among cities of similar population, for pulling off one of the best events.
Brown sets a goal each year to make the event number one and gets a little closer to the top spot each time.
“We’re always trying to make it better. While we’re trying to finish number one, we just want to make it a nice, fun event for the citizens.
“I tell the non-profit organizations each year ‘If you come, you won’t be disappointed,’ and I say the same thing to the citizens. There is something for all ages.”
This is the sixth year. The first National Night Out attracted only 300 people to Felts Park. It was moved to Grayson Street in 2006, and had nearly doubled in size every year.
Brown said he never imagined it would grow this big. He is ready this year, with 3,000 hot dogs on order.
“When we first started out, we would tell people about the free hot dogs,” said Brown. “Now, if you say the words ‘National Night Out,’ people know what you’re talking about. National Night Out ranks up there with the other Galax festivals.”
The event has grown because organizers continue to “make it a fun evening for people, and the community supports it,” Brown said.
It takes a lot of planning, volunteers and support from the community. Businesses have provided donations, about 70 volunteers are excited to sign up each year and the Crime Prevention Coalition works hard to put on a fun evening.
“People believe in what we do,” said Brown. “Without businesses, volunteers and the Crime Prevention Coalition, we couldn’t make this happen.”
The purpose is to encourage the public to help prevent crime, bring neighbors together and build relationships between law enforcement and citizens. And over the past few years, Brown said, he has seen its positive impact.
“People are more thankful” of what law enforcement provides, he said. “We’ve been able to build positive relationships in the community as a whole by including other local organizations. And people see that we’re no longer just a police officer in the rearview mirror, but they also see us as proactive.”
Brown said hosting the event is the police department’s way of “saying thanks to the community” for being good neighbors and providing support.
The hot dog-eating contest has a $10 entry fee, with the winner taking home the pot. Contact Brown in advance, 236-8101, to participate in the contest, or to set up as a church, business or non-profit organization.