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Oak Harbor's National Night Out experiences ‘extreme success’

Master-at-Arms Seaman Peter Biloschaetzke talks to a boy on the roof of a military vehicle. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Master-at-Arms Seaman Peter Biloschaetzke talks to a boy on the roof of a military vehicle.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Thousands turned out this year for Tuesday’s National Night Out, a campaign to prevent crime.

Though the reason for the annual Oak Harbor event is serious, the intention of many visitors at Windjammer Park was to have fun, and of course, to take lots of pictures of small children sitting behind the steering wheels of big rescue trucks.

About 50 vendors participated in the event from police forces to Island County Public Health to the Oak Harbor Lions Club to Habitat for Humanity. Food booths and classic cars lined the sidewalk behind the gazebo. Many of the organization participants were focused on educating the public about their services through engaging activities.

Firefighter Jim O’Connor of North Whidbey Fire and Rescue said it was important to let the public know that the department’s marine rescue program exists. O’Connor had a fire boat with him and said his group can reach coastal house fires more quickly than others.

“We want to make people in the community aware that we’re here to protect them,” he said. “And we always want to talk to them about safety.”

Members from the Police Navy Region Northwest were there showing kids the ins and outs of one of the rigs.

Master-at-Arms Seaman Peter Biloschaetzke said he wanted visitors to get an idea of what his job was all about.

“The military isn’t as bad as people think,” Biloschaetzke said. “We try to keep the base safe and try to make sure no illegal activity goes on and affects the community.”

It seemed the attendees enjoyed interacting with vendors and getting to know their officials more personally.

The kids especially liked the abundance of hands-on activities like learning how the gauges on a fire engine functioned, crawling through military vehicles and looking in police cars.

Seven-year-old Nicholas Polubinski came with the Cub Scouts. While putting stickers and decorations on a plastic hard hat, he decided his favorite part of the event was “building stuff.”

Mike and Barbara Benway said their grandchildren looked forward to the event too, even though they had outgrown the bouncy castles.

“We try to come every year,” Barbara said. “How can you not do this?”

Event organizer and United Way Executive Director Cathy Niiro said this year’s event was the best yet. She estimated between 2,000 and 3,000 people attended.

“It was an extreme success,” she said. “It was a resource fair for families to see things that are available to them and strengthen that community relationship.”

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