Neighbors all over Duluth gathered at community centers, parks and backyards on Tuesday evening to mark National Night Out.
National Night Out is an annual campaign that promotes partnerships between law enforcement and communities as well as neighborhood camaraderie. It’s usually celebrated on the first Tuesday of August in all 50 states and U.S. territories and on military bases worldwide. Most events revolve around food, friendship and fun.
Over at the French River Lutheran Church, the collection of food was vast. Many different Tupperware containers boasted various salads and dishes to share.
"That's the Lutheran way," said Pastor Kim Sturtz. "We always have too much food. But we're just making up for the fact that we couldn't do this last year."
Most National Night Out celebrations were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sturtz said the event this year was a nice way to see her congregants in person after a year of holding services online.
"It's an event that helps us come together as a community and see that we're not as different as we might think," Sturtz said. "This is what makes our community what it is."
Community engagement was the goal for Duluth Fire Department Chief Shawn Krizaj on Tuesday as well. The chief visited several community get-togethers, including one on Wellington Street. He said the department had several rigs out visiting as many parties as they could, while still having some staff on standby in case of emergency.
"What I enjoy most about this night is the chance to see people when we're not here for an emergency," Krizaj said. "It's a chance for people to ask questions and talk to us and we get to see each other as real people. We missed it last year and we're glad to be back."
Last year was tough for Sandy Winklesky as well. She and her husband Gary have held their annual National Night Out party for 45 years, with the exception of last year. Their celebration takes place on the wide swath of grass beside their house on Wellington Street in Lincoln Park and includes food, games and a very large giveaway of door prizes.
"We started it because we'd just moved into the area and wanted to meet our neighbors," Winklesky said. "People come from all over the neighborhood and even come back after they move away to visit again. It's wonderful to just see people every year."
Over on Raleigh Street, a small gathering of neighbors visited with visitors from the Duluth Police Department and local city councilor Arik Forsman.
Over at the Gary-New Duluth Recreation Center, Sergeant Mike LaFontaine took small groups of people into the Duluth Police Department's mobile command post for tours. The large vehicle serves as a command center whenever the police department needs to be at a scene for an extensive amount of time. It provides a space for leadership to stay on site and still be connected to the dispatch center, while also staying closer to the scene.
"We also use it for large events like Grandma's or the Bayfront Blues Festival," LaFontaine said.
Tuesday, the command post took Chief Mike Tusken and city councilor Janet Kennedy to various National Night Out parties, including the one held at the GND Rec Center.