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Mountain View's big night out

National Night Out at Rengstorff Park offers a chance to get to know local police, firefighters

Luka Jonsson Pereira, 3, left, and Artsion Shut, 6, right, role play on a Mountain View police car during the annual National Night Out on Aug. 6 at Rengstorff Park. Photo courtesy of Federica Armstrong

Children filed into lines at Rengstorff Park Tuesday evening, eagerly awaiting their turn to sit in the front seat of a fire engine, play on a bouncy house slide and, if they had any luck, throw a winning pitch to soak a police officer in a dunk tank.

The festivities were part of Mountain View's fifth annual National Night Out, a meet-and-greet with police officers and emergency first responders.

With roughly 100 people in attendance, the community-building event aimed to give residents an opportunity to interact with law enforcement in a friendly environment and put a face to the police and fire departments, according to police spokeswoman Katie Nelson.

"They're not just a badge and a uniform. They're people," Nelson said. "Any time (residents) see an officer, they should know that they're there in a capacity to help people."

As friendly K-9s and their handlers roamed the walkways, officers chatted with kids and adults over food, including bilingual officers who connected with Spanish-speaking residents.

Attendants could tinker with police tools and gadgets, pose on a police motorcycle and experience the inside of a patrol car and fire engine. Mayor Lisa Matichak and 10 volunteers from the police department took shifts sitting in the dunk tank throughout the evening.

Several organizations stationed booths at the event, including the Community Services Agency, the city's Recreation Division and the Mountain View Fire Department. YMCA hosted a raffle, and there was a place at the event where people could donate unwanted bikes to the nonprofit Community Cycles of California.

Local government officials spotted at National Night Out included council members Ellen Kamei and Margaret-Abe Koga, City Manager Dan Rich and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen. Matichak and police Chief Max Bosel delivered a welcoming address to the crowd, inviting them to take advantage of the food, activities and educational information at the booths.

Matichak also noted the historical significance of the event, a nationwide tradition that started in the 1980s in Pennsylvania and has grown to involve millions of Americans across 50 states each year.

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