National Night Out was created in the 1980s, as an attempt to bring neighbors together, both with each other and with the local police. The tradition still carries on, and has evolved, in communities across the nation, including right here in Monticello.
Last Tuesday, the River Mill and River Forest neighborhoods of Monticello were one such group to participate in National Night Out, as neighbors gathered together at River Mill Park to eat, interact, and have fun.
The River Mill gathering is in its third year at the park, and prior to that it was held at Maribel Cruz-Longley’s house for a few years. Cruz-Longly and Carrie Liddicoat now work together in putting on the neighborhood event.
Cruz-Longley started the activity because she was looking to do something for the community. Liddicoat moved to the neighborhood five years ago, and a couple of years later she jumped at the opportunity to join Cruz-Longley in planning this event.
“I wasn’t meeting people,” said Liddicoat. “I wanted to get to know my neighbors better, and have my kids know the neighbors and make more friends.”
Both Liddicoat and Cruz-Longley say the effort has paid off. Neighbors flocked to the park on Tuesday night to enjoy beautiful weather, a buffet, a raffle drawing with gift cards from local businesses, a bounce house, and a K-9 demonstration.
Both event organizers said that having the sheriff’s department involved is a key piece of the neighborhood gathering.
“I think it’s great,” said Liddicoat. “I have a four year old and he’s always excited. [It’s important to] introduce him to the positives that they have to offer and making sure he knows they’re our friends and they’re here to help us.”
Cruz-Longley said the sheriff’s department has been awesome to work with, and that the K-9 demonstration was from Deputy Josh Tester and his K-9 Vader was particularly fun.
“He was really nice, he was really friendly with the kids,” said Cruz-Longley.
Overall, both founders said the event has been a success, both in creating a fun night, and, more importantly, in bringing the neighborhood a little closer together.
“You see people and you wave going by,” said Liddicoat. “You know the faces, but it’s nice to put names with the faces.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]