With firefighters rappelling from a parking garage to a flyby from the Civil Air Patrol, this year’s annual National Night Out drew a crowd on both sides of the Androscoggin River on Tuesday.

Despite early thunder and torrential rain, crews quickly set up for the event, bringing community fire, law enforcement, emergency medical and social services face to face in a friendly atmosphere.

Joanne Labrie of Fun Times rentals in New Auburn ran a vacuum cleaner over her obstacle course as children lined up for a run-through at Marcotte Park. Labrie said she has been lending her inflatables for the Night Out festivities off and on for about five years.

Nearby, Lewiston Police Department Lt. Michael McGonagle and his daughter, Madison, 4, played with bubbles supplied by New Beginnings.

“It’s a good opportunity for police officers and the residents to get together and get to know each other a little bit and for the kids to interact with the police officers,” McGonagle said.

“Sometimes kids think that the police are there only when something wrong happens,” McGonagle said, “so this helps to break down those barriers.” He said the same holds true for the ambulance and firefighters in relating to the community.

Officer Joe Philippon stood by the department’s armored personnel carrier and mobile command unit, making sure clamoring children boarded the vehicles safely in the damp weather.

“It’s very popular,” Philippon said. “It’s one of those things most people don’t see or know that we have.”

Philippon, who is on LPD’s Community Resource Team, said he was unaware of the vehicle being needed since its unveiling last year and that it is mostly considered to be a hazardous-materials tool to keep officers safe in a haz-mat threat.

“It has no offensive capabilities,” Philippon said.

Destanie Marando, 8, carefully descended a ladder on the side of a Public Works tractor. Face painted and wearing freshly made bead bracelets, Marando had made quick work of visiting the activity tables at the park.

She was still excited about her encounter with a large king snake at the Mr. Drew and His Animals Too tent. There, Drew Desjardins walked among children with a horned toad on his shoulder, telling them about his rescued animals.

A large tortoise lumbered around the grass in front of his tent as the Music Connection played “MacArthur Park.”

On the Auburn side, Main Street was turned into a block party between the parking garage and Gritty’s, where the LA Harley Band played in Festival Plaza.

A large inflatable “Bootcamp Challenge Course” ran down the middle of the street. The course was provided by Summit Adventures, with the Maine Civil Air Patrol and its cadets at one end and the Army National Guard with its Humvee at the other.

Auburn police Chief Phil Crowell was enjoying the large crowd. “We had a great night — it’s been a good show,” he said.

“Hammond Lumber’s here, Target’s here, Tim Hortons —  and then we have probably about 25 nonprofit organizations,” Crowell said, “because we really want this to be an opportunity for them to come out and connect with the community.”

Crowell said, “These are the people we work with every day. A lot of times when we’re seen in the community, a lot of times they’re having the worst day of their life, whether it’s an accident or they’re the victim of a crime.”

National Night Out offered an opportunity for police to be seen in another light, he said. “We probably have 15 officers mingling out amongst the crowd, connecting, having conversations.”

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