AUBURN — Festival Plaza was buzzing with laughter and happy children Tuesday evening as the Police Department hosted its annual National Night Out party. 

Attractions included a balloon station, face painting, a SpongeBob SquarePants bounce house and a drunken-driving simulator. 

The big draw was a blow-up Boot Camp Challenge where kids could crawl, climb and slide through military-style obstacles. 

Other offerings were live music from local band Graffiti and a craft station. 

“We love it; it’s a great night,” Police Chief Phil Crowell said. “We have a lot of support here.”

He said he was happy with the big turnout, especially with all of the recent tragedies and incidents involving police shootings in the nation.

“The community loves this; the officers love it — getting to interact with people,” Crowell said.

“We’re consistent; we do this every year,” he said. 

“This is definitely the biggest one we’ve had,” said Liz Allen, Police Department planner. “With what’s been happening around the world, people are looking for something positive.”

She added, “It’s so good for the kids to interact with police officers in a positive way. This really shows how strong our community is.”

Auburn police officers manned games and booths. Some were in uniform, but most donned shirts imprinted with “Auburn Stands United.” 

Louise Cooper said, “I’ve been here every year since we’ve had it. It seems like forever.”

“What’s been happening (around the country), it’s not here,” she said. “We’ve just always had a good relationship with the police. And I’ve never had a reason not to.” 

Cooper’s granddaughter, Darian Copka, 21, was first in line for the impaired-driving test, which involved a golf cart on a course outlined with traffic cones. After the first lap to get the feel of the route, the driver puts on a pair of drunk goggles that simulate double vision. 

Officer Michael Chaine rode shotgun to keep drivers on the course.

Copka did not have much luck avoiding the cones, but her grandmother was happy about that.

“I don’t want her to be good at driving drunk,” she said. “I like to see them fail at this.”

Cooper’s husband was killed by a drunk driver.

Lewiston police held a National Night Out celebration in Marcotte Park.


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