Aspen Ellerbe wielded a dimpled smile, a blue sparkly tiara and a wicked swing.
The 6-year-old and a lot of other children waited in line to pummel Navy security officers with foam-covered batons, part of a demonstration that showed self-defense techniques.
It was just one stop at Oak Harbor’s National Night Out on Tuesday.
“I hit him in the foot!” she squealed.
Her parents smiled. The Navy security officer was dressed in a “redman suit,” protective head-to-toe padding.
This is the fourth year they’ve taken their kids to the event. It’s a chance to have fun as a family, for little and big kids to climb aboard rescue boats, fire trucks and all the other shiny equipment local police and firefighters use.
Fun aside, Amanda Ellerbe said her family likes to pick up information on community resources. And she wants to make sure her kids form a positive association with police and rescue personnel.
“I don’t want them to be scared of law enforcement,” she said.
The national event, held on the first Tuesday of August, is meant to raise awareness of police programs. Every community celebrates it differently: it can be a block party or a town festival or something in between.
In Oak Harbor, it’s an outdoor party held at Fort Nugent Park. So many people showed up that both parking lots were filled and cars lined the street too.
Visitors could buy dinner, look inside a demilitarized combat vehicle and watch the Oak Harbor Fire Department set a demonstration room on fire and then put it out. Booths were stocked with community resources.
“It’s always good to have an opportunity to show off our stuff, show the taxpayers what they paid for and the pride we have in our organization,” said North Whidbey Fire and Rescue chief Mike Brown.
Mayor Bob Severns spoke at the event and he described this as a “tenuous time” for many communities. The crowd assembled that night was the biggest for the event he’d seen.
“We want to send a message to criminals that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back against crime,” he said.
“We also want to take the time to thank police.”