National Night Out in La Habra draws biggest, most diverse crowd yet

By Shawn Price

Raindrops couldn’t keep hundreds of La Habra families from the annual National Night Out event Tuesday evening at Portola Park.

Nearly 1,500 people turned out to get a bite to eat, watch a movie and enjoy themselves while interacting with members of La Habra PD, Los Angeles County FD, and various local sponsors and community organizations in an effort to further build community bonds and prevent crime.

La Habra PD Captain George Johnstone kicked off the Polynesian-themed festivities wishing the crowd “Aloha!” and thanking community and business leaders, community-based and faith-based organizations and city staff for working together to put the city’s motto “A Caring Community” into action.

“We have asked the community to be an active participant in the safety and well-being of our city,” he told the crowd. “You have responded overwhelmingly.”

Samantha Panuca, 7, left, and Ericka Mendoza, 8, both of La Habra, try on SWAT gear during National Night Out with the La Habra Police Department  at Portola Park. Photo by Carlos Delgado

Sgt. Dan Barnes, Lead Communications Operator Kristen Kernohan and Asst. Recreation Manager Katie Elmore organized the event with the help of the city’s Community Services Department staff and local sponsors that included Target, Chick-Fil-A, Orchard’s Fresh Foods, The Warehouse O.C., The Children’s Museum at La Habra, Wells Fargo, Sprouts, Jersey Mike’s and 7-11.  Barnes was thrilled to see how the event has grown over time. He praised the collaboration, saying it “makes [the event] the success it is and is helping make the city what it is.”

National Night Out began in Philadelphia in 1984 promoting neighborhood watch programs and has grown to include an estimated 38 million people in 20,000 towns and cities across the country.

During the evening’s activities, La Habra residents had the opportunity to watch K-9 demonstrations while enjoying free hot dogs, burgers, and kabobs. A few kids were allowed to make a mess in the watermelon eating contest. LHPD personnel helped kids make balloon animals and even stained glass-type decorations. While other youngsters hopped aboard a police motorcycle for a picture. Officers even took turns in the dunk tank, delighting those who helped them make a splash. Children and adults alike tried on gear from the North County SWAT.

Children take part in a watermelon eating contest during National Night Out with the La Habra Police Department on Tuesday at Portola Park. Photo by Carlos Delgado

Residents also got to meet representatives from the city’s growing Korean community at the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Assn. booth.

Keeping with the Aloha spirit of the evening, Polynesian dancers performed on stage and the evening concluded with the showing of the movie, “Moana.”

As the city continues to change and grow, events like National Night Out help it remain a functional and cohesive one. “It’s about getting face time without stress,” Barnes said. “And getting to know each other.”

Spectators watch a drug-sniffing dog presentation during National Night Out with the La Habra Police Department. Photo by Carlos Delgado

LHPD Corporal Dave Morrison and Officer Ricardo Rodriguez of North County SWAT keep things light during National Night Out. Photo by Carlos Delgado

LHPD School Resource Officer Justin Bender is about to drop into the dunk tank during National Night Out on Aug. 1 at Portola Park. Photo by Carlos Delgado