By Mr. Brandon BieltzAugust 8, 2012
FORT MEADE, Md. -- Kendall Farr was dressed head-to-toe in a metallic suit that looked like he
stepped out of a sci-fi movie.
Though prepared to join firefighters from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to take down a fuel fire on the runway, the 5-year-old from Baltimore had trouble maneuvering in the gear and stood a few inches shorter than the tires of the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting truck.
"I was a real firefighter," Kendall said. "The boots were hard [to walk in]. I kept falling over."
Kendall and his mother Navy Reserve Counselor 1st Class Kristi Farr were among the estimated 5,000 people attending the 29th annual National Night Out held Tuesday evening at McGlachlin Parade Field. The three-hour event featured demonstrations by emergency responders, music, games, pony rides, informational booths and free hot dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes and Slurpees.
The National Association of Town Watch sponsors the nationwide event on the first Tuesday in August every year. Fort Meade's anticrime community event was co-hosted by the Directorate of Emergency Services and Picerne Military Housing.
"It's a police-community partnership designed to heighten crime awareness and show the community the friendly face of the police department by showing them our tools and equipment we use to investigate crime," said Fort Meade Police Capt. Thomas Russell, an event organizer.
Meagan Murray, a communications specialist at Picerne, said co-hosting the event is a "great fit" for the privatized housing partner. "It's centered around safety and it brings out the community," she said. A majority of Picerne's 120 employees at Fort Meade worked at the event, either grilling, helping vendors or running inflatables.
Festivities kicked off with a parade of emergency response vehicles through the installation's residential areas. Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein and DES Director Lt. Col. J. Darrell Sides joined Sparky the Fire Dog and McGruff the Crime Dog atop a fire truck and used a megaphone to invite the community to the block party.
The convoy came to a halt on Cooper Avenue alongside the parade field at 6 p.m. to officially start the event.
This year's National Night Out featured popular new attractions including a 7-Eleven Slurpee trailer, where Rothstein served a batch to thirsty visitors, and a zip line. Airman 1st Class Thomas Spaugh of the 22nd Intelligence Squadron was the first in line to get hooked up to the harness. "It was awesome," he said after zooming down the cable. In addition to the attractions, various demonstrations and informational booths from organizations on- and off-post spanned a majority of the parade field.
Fire departments from throughout the area displayed a variety of fire-fighting tools. Law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, National Security Agency, Fort Meade Police and military police, Anne Arundel County Police, Maryland State Police and Aberdeen Proving Ground Special Response Team all brought equipment and showed off their skills.
Around 7 p.m., a helicopter from the Howard County Police Department landed on the parade field. Navy Chief Petty Officer Derrick Granthum of the Defense Media Activity and his son Julien, circled the apparatus, checking out each part. The 9-year-old declared that his favorite piece was the propeller.
Later in the evening, the APG Special Response Team demonstrated its explosive breaching tactics on a door set up near the end of the field. "We like to demonstrate the amount of training and dedication we have to our craft," Police Lt. Joel Holdford said. "It's gives us a chance to show the community that we've got them, that they're safe and that we can protect them."
The large number of law enforcement and fire departments gathered together in one place presented an opportunity for young Kendall to feel comfortable with emergency responders, said his mother. "Every since he was little, we made sure that he speaks to policemen, speaks to the firemen," Farr said. "We don't want him to be intimidated by any emergency personnel. It's a fun way for [children] to interact and ask their questions and feel more comfortable."
The former Defense Information School instructor, who has attended National Night Out for the past four years, said her family looks forward to the gathering every year. Granthum, who attended the event for a second year, said his family enjoys the annual activity as well. "We come out and let the kids enjoy themselves and interact with the other neighbors," he said. "It's just a pretty good time."