The police departments in Lewiston and Auburn hosted their annual National Night Out on Tuesday evening to promote police-community partnerships.

The campaign, run by the National Association for Town Watch, was introduced in 1984. Tuesday marked the 17th year the Auburn Police Department celebrated the event.

Hosted on Main Street and Festival Plaza, the free event included live music by the L-A Harley Band, local basketball legend Troy Barnies, an inflatable obstacle course, a bounce house, and giveaways from businesses and organizations.

Deputy Police Chief Timothy Cougle said the event served as a “opportunity for community members to interact with law enforcement in an informal way.”

Haysley, 2, of Lewiston tries on a fire hat Tuesday evening at the Night Out Against Crime sponsored by the Auburn Police Department at Festival Plaza. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

Cougle said the department plans for several weeks, but because they’ve been putting on the event for so long, it’s a lot easier than it used to be. He said the key to being successful was the community partnerships.

Lots of those community partners had booths set up in Festival Plaza. Mamie Anthonie Ney, director of the Auburn Public Library, was especially excited about the event.

“We’ve done this for the last several years, and it serves as a great way to connect with the community,” she said. “We aim to engage, enrich and enlighten, and this helps. It’s always a really fun time.”

National Night Out serves not just as a good way for police and community members to interact, but also as a fun experience for kids and families to get together, Dylan Larose said. The Auburn native and his two sons, Liorita and Ossian, were stationed at the bounce house.

“We decided to come because it was a nice day and after social distancing, it’s good for the kids to be around people,” Larose said. “We’ve only been to the inflatable so far.”

His son Liorita, 9, was excited for more family members, including “lots of cousins” to arrive, while his brother, 6, was looking forward to more time in the bounce house.

The Lewiston event was held in the field behind the Armory and Lewiston Middle School with the movie “Lion King”  presented by Lewiston Summer Fun and Films and free hot dogs provided by the Walmart Distribution Center. It also featured a martial arts demonstration by Phoenix Academy of Martial Arts and a stand-up comedian.

Interim Police Chief David St. Pierre said the event was important to “break down walls between the community and the police.”

He added that the “key component” for the police department and the community is “interacting with each other” and forming bonds.

Logan Rossignor of Auburn passes out popcorn Tuesday at the Night Out Against Crime sponsored by the Auburn Police Department at Festival Plaza. Anna Gouveia/Sun Journal

The Lewiston Police Department decided to combine their movie night, which is part of the Lewiston Summer Fun and Films program, with the National Night Out event. Usually, a police officer said, between 300 and 400 Lewiston residents attend the movie nights, which have occurred a few times this summer.

Detective Joseph Philippon is one of the officers who took the lead on planning the event. Normally, he said, the department begins discussing the observance in January. This year, because of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, they only began planning in May. Despite the time crunch, the event was still filled with community members and partners.

One such community partner was Donna Harris, head of the Phoenix Academy of Martial Arts. The academy, which Harris runs alongside her husband, put on a show for parents and onlookers at the event, drawing quite the crowd.

“The kids really enjoy performing,” Harris said. “It’s a good way to build self confidence and to be a leader.”

Harris added that “anytime there’s a community event” the group tries to perform or attend. They practice weekly, and start with children as young as 2 years old. She said she was “really proud of how quickly they learned the routines.”

Luis Bolanos and Andrea Doucette are parents of Luna Bolanos Doucette, a student of the martial arts academy. They came to National Night Out to watch their daughter, but said they also enjoyed going to community events like the previous movie nights.

“This year we’ve been to a few,” Doucette said. “They’re really well planned and coordinated, and the weather is so nice, especially tonight. It’s good for the kids to get together, and it’s a really fun part of the summer.”


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