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National Night Out back with a bang

Neighbors invited to meet, mingle, enjoy free food, games and activities

ROCK FALLS – Rock Falls will host its first National Night Out on Tuesday, and Sterling’s is returning for the second year in a row.

Since Aug. 7, 1984, National Night Out has been held annually all over America by the National Association of Town Watch, a nonprofit organization that works with local law enforcement agencies, neighborhood watch organizations, businesses, etc., to keep communities safe.

It’s been happening in Sterling off and on since 1990, but 2013, the 30th anniversary of National Night Out, will mark the first year Rock Falls has participated, and the community support has been overwhelming, coordinator Marge Sadowski said.

In Rock Falls, activities will be held at the Centennial Park schoolhouse from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Among the many neighborhod agencies and groups participating are the State Police, Rock Falls police and fire departments, the Illinois National Guard, 21 area churches and the Chamber of Commerce. There will be hot dogs, snacks, children’s games and Culver’s custard – all free of charge.

The Sterling event started in 1997, but without much community support, and it petered out over the years, so “2003 was the last year we did the event [in a big way],” Lt. Doug Fargher said. “It kind of stagnated a little bit, and the community didn’t seem to be paying attention.”

This time around, things seem different. In Sterling, activities will be spread over five parks: Douglas, Wallace, Propheter, Lincoln and Kilgour.

“There’s going to be a barbershop quartet in one park, a mini beanbag tournament in Kilgour, face-painting all over the place,” Fargher said. Hot dogs, snacks and drinks will be provided, and fun and games for children will include bounce houses.

There will be raffles for gift certificates to area restaurants. At Wallace, Aurelio’s Bakery will be giving away free baked goods and Culver’s will offer free custard.

Dairy Mart will be at Lincoln Park with chips and salsa and coupons for free ice cream.

At 6:30 p.m. in the various parks, city leaders will talk about the Neighborhood Watch program, and attendees will be led on a walk throughout the neighborhood around the park.

At 9 p.m., there will be a showing of “The Blind Side” at Grandon Civic Center.

As in Rock Falls, all Sterling activities are free of charge. The Whiteside County Community Action Network and First Christian Church in Rock Falls are among the sponsors of the local events.

A decade ago, it seemed to be mostly police pushing National Night Out and trying to get people to attend, but recently it has turned overwhelmingly in the other direction, with the community taking the reins, led mostly by WeCAN, Fargher said.

That has Sadowski beaming.

“I was raised in Rock Falls,” she said. “I lived here all but a few years of my adult life. I’ve always been very proud of my community, but during this, I found out why.”

Online extra

Go to www.natw.org to learn more about National Night Out, “America’s Night Out Against Crime,” being held this year on Tuesday.

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