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A nifty National Night Out in Claremont

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The screen deflated midway through the showing of Inside Out and suddenly Claremont’s National Night Out was over.

None of the hundreds in attendance grumbled, however, as they folded their blankets and walked away. The unspoken consensus was that the celebration—which took place Saturday in Memorial Park—was still a resounding success.

The event was part of a national effort to get families out of the house and mingling with neighbors as well as with members of their police departments.

Evidence that this aim was achieved could be seen well before dusk descended on the park. Blankets and low chairs served as the venue for conversation and dinner on an evening that had mercifully cooled down after a day with temperatures hovering in the 90s.

Kimberly Perez was there with her family, including husband Sergio and her sons Sergio, 6, and Stephen, 2. The boys will soon be welcoming another sibling whose name, they shared, is Kaylani.

When Sergio, who is going into first grade at Vista del Valle this fall, was asked if he was Sergio Jr., he shook his head. “I’m Little Sergio,” he said.

The Perez family, which moved to Claremont three years ago, has attended all of the concerts and movies in the park this summer. “I like the community here. It feels so friendly,” Ms. Perez said.

For 500 residents who acted early to get tickets from the police station, the evening’s menu featured free In-N-Out burgers with potato chips and soda. Others brought food from home or picked up snacks from the concession stand run by Kiwanis.

As usual, “honorary Kiwanian” Sonja Stump was there to lend a hand as her husband, actual Kiwanian Bob Fagg, sold goodies like ice cream, hot dogs, popcorn and chips.

Ms. Stump said she’s “a hanger-on-er” because, even after 38 years of marriage, she enjoys spending time with her husband.

“I also like being involved with Kiwanis,” she said. “I love what they do. All the money goes back into the community.”

As to be expected, the younger contingent of the community was in motion, frolicking at the playground, climbing a low-hanging tree and playing tag amid the crowd. A few children wandered over to an instrument “petting zoo” conducted by members of the Claremont Youth Symphony Orchestra (CYSO).

The booth was manned by CYSO director Matthew Keating and vocal, piano and harp teacher Kathryn Lillich, who is herself an alumna of the orchestra.

Five-year-old Hayden Lopez-Rouse, who will start transitional kindergarten at Sycamore this fall, had an opportunity to try his hand at the harp under the supervision of Ms. Lillich. “I like to strum it. It sounds nice,” Hayden said.

Pop music from loudspeakers wafted through the park and some of the less shy youngsters competed in a dance-off. Then it was time for the movie to begin. It was preceded by a special viewing of All the Way to the Ocean, an animated feature based on Claremont resident Joel Harper’s book of the same name.

The audience applauded at the conclusion of the film—focusing on ways we can keep our oceans free from garbage and featuring music by Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, among other artists.

Throughout the evening, the Claremont Police Department played an active role, dispensing glow-sticks for kids and answering questions. Visitors to their booth could get swag like free piggy banks, bike locks and a card featuring the CPD’s new slogan, “If you see something, say something.”

Canine officers were also available for the meeting, including a plush-costumed McGruff the Crime Dog and the CPD’s K-9 helper Luther, a Belgian Malinois.

Sergeant David DeMetz was in charge of organizing National Night Out this year. “It’s a lot of work, but the community groups we work with make it easy. We really work together to see it come together well,” he said.

Sgt. DeMetz has been with the Claremont Police Department for more than a dozen years and says he enjoys his beat.

“It’s a great place. It’s got a small-town feel, but there’s a lot of diversity. And the people really care about their community,” he said.

Sgt. DeMetz sees events like National Night Out as a wonderful opportunity.

“We need to work in partnership to help prevent crime,” he said. “That’s why we’re bringing the community and law enforcement together.”   

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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