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National Night Out strengthens community ties with law enforcement

Before facing off in a tug-o-war competition, members of police and fire departments in Campton, Thornton and Waterville Valley gathered for a group photo at the National Night Out festival on Aug. 6 in Thornton. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
August 14, 2019
THORNTON – While National Night Out has long been celebrated across the country, bringing families together with law enforcement and public safety officials for not only fun but a show of strength in their communities, this was only the second year it has been held in the Thornton area.

"Amazing" was the word uttered repeatedly on Aug. 6, as families arrived at Benton's Sugar Shack Campground and took their first look around the open fields. Representatives from the police and fire departments of Thornton, Campton and Waterville Valley organized the event, and with the support of the three communities there was much to see and do at absolutely no cost.

"Thanks to some incredible sponsors this night didn't cost the taxpayers a dime and it's free for everyone to just come out and have a great time," said Thornton Police Chief Kenneth Miller.

Even food and ice cream was free while it lasted.

"That's the only bad news of the night. We ran out of ice cream really early," Miller said.

There were K9 demonstrations from both police and the State Fire Marshal's office, information booths from local nonprofit groups like CADY and Voices Against Violence, and an educational presentation from the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission. Thornton PD also provided "drunk goggles" for people to wear while trying to negotiate a golf cart through a course. It was an eye-opening experience for many as they discovered first hand the dangers of driving under the influence.

Wildlife Encounters stopped by to introduce everyone to some fascinating creatures they brought to National Night Out and there were dozens of other activities to take part in once their presentation was over.

Dole Mill RC Speedway of Campton brought a selection of radio-operated cars for boys and girls to race around a roped off section of the lawn while just beyond that, Campton's Recreation Department had a S.A.F.E. Archery challenge that kept children smiling.

Many dads enjoyed creating giant bubbles for their little ones' amusement and the tiny tots also had fun at a mini-obstacle course.

The biggest hits of the night though were the Vertical Zone climbing wall and bungee jump from Waterville Valley Resort, and the slip and slide foam hill created by the fire departments.

"We saw the signs for this and thought we'd check it out this year. We never realized how big an event this was. It's amazing," said Nate Banville of Campton.

Another mom from Thornton was equally excited about all the fun and educational activities available that night.

"We've done everything there is to do. This is such a great thing for our community," she said.

Law Enforcement and Public Safety officials had some fun, too. There was a dunking booth where people could line up to dunk a local officer, firefighter or EMT. Several officers of law enforcement branches from all over the region also took part in a special bench press competition to see who was tops when it came to lifting weights. Showing them all who was number one when it came to strength though was Ryan Largay, owner of Ace Fitness in Littleton, who deadlifted 700 lbs. before an amazed audience. Not just once — several times in a row.

Finally, it was police vs. fire once again in a tug-of-war that had crowds cheering for one side or the other as they faced off for bragging rights. While it was the firefighters defending their title from last year, this time the police came back strong and won the competition.

At the end of the night, Miller was very pleased with the entire event.

"The National Night Out has become a great community event for the towns of Campton, Thornton and Waterville Valley. In addition, it's a great way for our officers to integrate with the community in an enjoyable atmosphere as opposed to situations in response to calls for service. It's organizational transformation at its best," Miller said. "I also want to give kudos to the NNO committee (Thornton PD, Campton PD, Waterville Valley Public Safety, and Campton-Thornton Fire Department) that worked so hard putting this event together, and to all of our sponsors for allowing this to be a free event. It's enjoyable to see the results after all the hard work, and we look forward to another great event next year."

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
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