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Island County sheriff puckers up for two pigs

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown kisses a pig held by 911 dispatcher Kelly Crownover during the Big Kiss Off Challenge. The Island County Sheriff’s Department raised about $300 more for United Way than its competitor, the Oak Harbor Police Department. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown kisses a pig held by 911 dispatcher Kelly Crownover during the Big Kiss Off Challenge. The Island County Sheriff’s Department raised about $300 more for United Way than its competitor, the Oak Harbor Police Department.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Tuesday evening Island County Sheriff Mark Brown puckered up to not one, but two, squealing pigs in front of a chanting crowd at Windjammer Park. Brown was the “winner” of the first-ever Big Kiss Off Challenge to take place at Oak Harbor’s National Night Out.

The kiss off was organized by Cathy Niiro, United Way of Island County’s executive director, in order to raise money for her partner organizations. Niiro challenged the Island County Sheriff’s Department and the Oak Harbor Police Department to collect donations prior to the event, and whichever department brought in the most dough got to see its boss peck the pig. Brown’s group raised $1,844, while Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace’s department raised $1,540.

Though Brown dutifully kissed one pig on stage, the laughing crowd decided the quick peck didn’t count, and hollered until he agreed to a second smooch.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Brown told friends after the kisses were over.

The kiss off was a big draw of this year’s event, but the 28th annual National Night Out saw many highlights.

Niiro estimated about 60 total vendors showed up for the evening, including many of the island’s emergency responders and community welfare organizations.

“I think it was probably our largest crowd we’ve ever had,” Niiro said. “Everything went really well.”

National Night Out is a crime and drug prevention campaign that is celebrated across the country on the first Tuesday in August each year. Niiro said the goal is for community members to get to know their officials and what’s available to them.

“It’s helpful if anyone has ever been curious about law enforcement and first responders,” Niiro said. “It strengthens that partnership so that people can get to know those groups and build a relationship with them.”

Many of the vendors had kid-friendly activities. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island security members allowed kids to get into the ring with someone dressed in a hand-to-hand combat training suit. The Oak Harbor Fire Department brought along a talking fire engine and Sparky the fire dog. Additionally, many organizations allowed children to crawl through their emergency vehicles or offered games and face painting.

Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace said he can’t believe how much the event has grown in the last 28 years.

“It was really not much more than a block-watch type party when it first started,” Wallace said in his opening remarks, “and just look at what it has become. It gets bigger and better every year.”

Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik noted that 37 million people across the country pledged to take part in National Night Out Tuesday.

“I can’t imagine anyone having a better event than the city of Oak Harbor,” he said.

 

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