TWINSBURG — The rain held out over Tiger Stadium and spirits were high Aug. 7 as an estimated 700 to 800 people turned out for the local National Night Out celebration.
National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.
It was the third year the city of Twinsburg hosted the event.
"It’s a great event for Twinsburg and other communities to build good relationships between residents and safety forces," said Mayor Ted Yates.
The mayor was on hand to talk to residents and introduced a K-9 police officer demonstration and a doughnut eating contest to onlookers in the stands at the stadium.
Yates then donned a heavy "bite suit" and became a suspect, whom K-9 Officer Caesar and his handler, Officer Yamil Encarnacion, apprehended. Yates tried to elude the pair on the football field, but was chased down and snagged by Caesar.
"This was the first time Caesar participated in the demonstration," the mayor said, "but I’ve been the suspect before during K-9 officer Yasso’s career with the department."
Meanwhile, the doughnut eating contest pitted three Twinsburg police officers against three members of the public who were chosen to compete via a raffle-style drawing.
The first of the seven contestants to eat two dozen doughnut holes was the winner, and it turned out that two contestants — Officer Rodney Gist and football cheerleader Arlycia Smith — tied for top honors.
Officers Eric Hendershott and Maggie Hunter also competed, while Anthony Super and Salih Lewis were the other members of the public.
"I train for this day in and day out," Gist joked. "It’s great to be out among residents of the community at an event such as this."
Asked whether it was tough to eat all those doughnut holes, Smith responded, "All my fellow cheerleading colleagues cheering me on made it easier, and being able to wash them down with water helped."
The police department won the fitness competition title over the Twinsburg Fire Department, and now holds a 2-1 lead in the event, which requires participants to do physical tasks such as pushups and pushing a weighed, wheeled apparatus across the football field.
Participants this year included Firefighters Ryan Nutter, Brandon Cooper, Demetrius Butler, Josh Jarzab and Joe Schuerger and Police Officers Larnie Zellner, Vinnie Caporuscio, Jeremy Mohorick, Alex Lovasz and Tyler Troyer.
Youngsters had the opportunity to experience what it feels like to be intoxicated by trying to drive a pedal go-cart around a course of cones, inhibited by a pair of goggles.
According to Officer Ron Fruscella of the community policing bureau, the different pairs of goggles represented various levels of impairment, such as being under the influence of alcohol or certain illegal chemical substances.
Jacob Coffman said he felt like he was going downhill the whole time as he tried to maneuver the go-cart through the cones.
"It was hard to steer, and the turns were difficult," he said.
Football cheerleader Rylie Page added, "It gave me a headache. My goggles were dark and I could hardly see. I kept running into the cones."
Other than the Twinsbug police and fire departments, organizations that turned out for the event — with information for the public or displays of vehicles — included the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Metro SWAT, Reminderville Police, Summit Metro Parks, the Click It or Ticket campaign, Federal Trade Commission, Community Emergency Response Team and Humane Society of Summit County.
Residents attending were treated to complimentary hot dogs, sno cones, water and candy. Reminderville Police gave out free cookies and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation gave out lollipops.
Youth cheerleaders sponsored tables where children could color police-themed pictures, Twinsburg police had bike patrol bicycles on display and T-shirts, bracelets, patches and stickers were sold to raise funds for the Josh Miktarian scholarship.
VFW Post 4929’s Color Guard marched onto the football field for the national anthem prior to the start of activities there.
Twinsburg Assistant Fire Chief Steve Bosso, who was grilling hot dogs, called National Night Out "a pretty cool event."
"Anything the police and fire departments can do to build good relationships with the community is a good thing," he said.
According to organizers, the celebration enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement, and brings back a true sense of community. It also provides an opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.
Millions of neighbors take part in National Night Out across thousands of communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories and military bases worldwide on the first Tuesday in August.
Mark Gutowski, an IT specialist and photographer for the city, echoed the sentiments of others, calling National Night Out "a great community event, which I enjoy attending each year."
"It’s great to see the city coming together," he said. "There are nice activities for kids, and it’s just a fine summer event."
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.