August 4, 2009

National Night Out turns city into a giant pot-luck

Racine was a giant pot-luck supper Tuesday night.

Barbeques were everywhere in the city -- some 70 of them at last count. Kids were playing in the streets, popcorn, cotton candy machines and sno-cones magically appeared at dozens of block parties. There was music, play houses and games for kids. Fire engines showed up, not to fight fires, but to let kids climb into.

Why, there even were cops to dunk!

Bernice Moore receives plaque from Neighborhood Watch's
Dan Mekemson and Charlie French, as McGruff stands guard

But all that was secondary to the evening's main purpose, which was to bring neighbors, and neighborhoods, together. National Night Out Against Crime and Drugs was celebrating its 25th anniversary and the message was simple. As Bernice Moore, who was there at the beginning, one of the city's first block captains when Neighborhood Watch was forming in 1981 -- and seeking funds from Mayor Stephen Olson -- said as she was honored at the evening's first event, "We know one day we will have our neighborhoods back."

Walking with a cane at the block party she has hosted for decades, Moore said, "I'm not young like I used to be," adding, "This was a good idea we started in the city."

National Night Out's kickoff event in the 900 block of Racine Street began with the presentation of a plaque to Moore from Neighborhood Watch's board president, Dan Mekemson, and executive director Charlie French. Mayor John Dickert presented a proclamation, but boiled its message down to: There aren't enough police and first responders for every block, so "we're going to have to do it ourselves." That was echoed by County Executive Bill McReynolds. State Rep. Bob Turner said, "We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go."

At least three aldermen -- Ray DeHahn, Jeff Coe and Robert Anderson -- were present, along with Assistant Police Chief Steven Hurley, fire officials, police and firemen, along with two big fire engines blocking the street, and McGruff the Crime Dog handing out honorary badges to the kids. All that before the food was cooked.

Tyler Kerner, 5
holds tightly to McGruff

And that was just at one of the 70 events. Many top officials went from one to another; Dickert had a list of about eight on his iPhone, and Hurley and McGruff made the rounds as as well. Food was plentiful. And depending upon where you were, there was music -- Cheryl McCrary started the evening off with the National Anthem at Mead Street -- and even a dunk tank at the Villa Street COP House where, for $1, you could attempt to drop officer Brad Jungbluth into a large tank of cold water. It was all for a good cause: the money will go toward purchase of kids' playground equipment. After a while, Coe took a stint in the dunk tank as well.

Officer Sam Stulo, Mayor John Dickert and Alderman Bob Anderson
(The haze is coming from the barbeque pit.)

Residents and officials know that it takes a lot of initiatives to eliminate crime, and progress is marked a block at a time. Standing outside the COP House on Mead, Alderman Bob Anderson noted, "This street was gang-bang central, but at the last COP House meeting, everyone was complaining about a parking problem. Charlie French got the giggles." But even with that progress, Anderson also noted, there had been a shooting recently; "You don't get rid of the problem, you just chase them out, to somewhere else."

He praised Officer Sam Stulo, who has been stationed at the COP House for almost three years. "You've got to be the right kind of guy to be a neighborhood police officer; got to get along with people." Stulo, he said, gives people his cellphone number; "people are very comfortable talking to Sam. Getting a policeman who knows the neighborhood is more important than sending four squad cars. We've got to get the neighborhood involved."

Stulo said the same thing. "I try to get around on foot as much as possible." Looking around as the lines formed for food -- burgers, hot dogs, sweet corn, watermelon, cake -- he noted, "There are people I've arrested here ... but we're looking for long-term solutions."

Officer Brad Jungbluth hits the water for a good cause

Dyani Driver, 10, 'drives' Fire Engine No. 6

Cheryl McCrary sings the National Anthem
(The only flag available was Carolyn Vinson's hat)

Denise Jones, 5, has fun with a Frisbee

Jump houses are always popular with kids


  1. McGruff the Crime Dog8/05/2009 1:29 AM

    Everything turned out nice IMHO. The weather was nice (even in the costume!!!) and everyone seemed to be very nice and cordial. Special Thanks to Mary @ RNW for making this all work! You are amazing and we apprciate your efforts each year... The kids seemed to enjoy it again and that makes it all worth it! Special note of thanks to RacinePost for the EXCELLENT coverage of such a positive event!

  2. Stulo??? LMAO!

  3. I would like to point out that there were MANY other areas in the city that also took part in National Night Out, despit not being covered by the Post.

    Once again, the Post was at this specific event (Very politically correct by showing an Inner City function by the way) where Mayor Dickert was.

    I knew before I even opened this page that there would be a photograph of the Mayor, chumming with people, looking as if he had a "stressful" day with his tie loose and crooked around his neck (nice touch).

    Can you two "journalists" please admit that you gush over this guy over everything he does at any event he shows up to??

    Some of us would respect you more, but I don't think you guys care if you are respected (especially after you ran that Becker piece a few weeks back).

    Now I will wait for pete's vicious, sarcastic, elitist attack on this comment.

    Oh, funny, in my neighborhood not one officer or firefighter showed up. I guess you have to live in the inner city to get the perks.

    Thank you.

  4. Has anyone noticed how Pete and Dustin gush over Tom Friedel too? He can do no wrong in their eyes.

  5. Charlie French should have the RPD do their job vs asking neighbors to hand out fliers to illegally parked cars.
    Charlie French should want all kids to be safe crossing the streets of Racine to include the kids in West 6th St area of Racine.

    Saying that I think Neighborhood watch is a great thing but I fully believe Charlie French needs to retire

  6. I'm just guessing here, but maybe with 70 or so individual events happening all over the city in the span of just three hours, it's not possible for two guys to cover them all, so they choose -- I dunno -- a bigger one? Perhaps the one the mayor is at?

    The gathering at Mitchell School was only about 15 people, but we met neighbors we had never known before, dogs met other dogs, we had games and food, and we were visited by both the fire and police departments. It was a wonderful thing.

  7. I live on the south side by Dekoven, all I saw were kids throwing food in the street and shouting obscenities. My house was a block from one of the "events".

  8. I live by Biscayne and walked over to see the fire engine which was a mecca for the kids. I asked if there was literature or anything about this event. There was nothing organized about the whole dignitaries or aldermen or anyone but kids running around. So I came back home. What was to be accomplished about this whole thing?

  9. Sorry, I was laughing at 7:48 and Sassa's comments.

    I'm sure that these are fine events that greatly enhance the urban experience in Racine.

  10. If you were not happy with this year's events, help organize and plan for next year. Make it great in your neighborhood.

    There's no way for Dustin and Pete to cover all the events, but I know for a fact that if you sent in pictures and/or a story about the positive events happening in your area, they would put them up. Or let them know in advance that you know of a good story and invite them.

    When you start contributing to the fun, there's no need for complaining.

  11. National Night Out's subtitle, if you will, is "America's Night Out Against Crime" (just take a look at their website). There is typically more crime in the inner-city so of course the focus from the police, politicians, media, etc. will be in the inner-city. Plus, there are many children in those areas so another reason to focus there. If your neighborhood does not have a high crime rate, that should be enough reason to celebrate daily.

  12. All I can say is it looked like a tornado went down Villa St. There was debris on the street and on peoples lawns. I don't remember it being this bad from previous years.

  13. Puhleeze. I know for a fact 1600 Villa was swept clean to start the party and in the end. The kids helped the most.

    We even cleaned the park at 17th and Grand. The garden is looking pretty great there too.

    Garbage was not all up and down Villa. Be more specific when you throw around general negativity about a street. Some of us are doing things to make this a better place to live.

    Also it wasn't that long ago that our block used to have bigger problems. If your street looks a mess then I think you need to get out there and work on it. We cannot sit back and whine and moan about the city. Get to know all the kids and your neighbors. Take action yourself.

  14. Yeah because the RJT had SO much better coverage, right? They have a little blurb and did NOTHING to promote this day... And as Mark said, if you have 70 plus events do you stop at the one with 2 people sitting out or the one with a couple hundred?!?!

  15. And really, if you have any complaints with it all and the organization, feel free to call Mary @ RNW as I'm sure that she'd appreciate any help you are willing to offer!

  16. Good point, RacineGirl! We'll happily publish any photos or stories people have from their NNO events. Send them to:

    We truly would love to be every event, but as Mark said, it's not possible right now. Now, in a couple of years ...

  17. The jag that complained about the coverage were the mayor is, is the same jag that would complain if you didn't cover where the mayor was. Complain, complain, blah, blah, blah!!! Stay of the post idiot. Sick of all you whining negative tools!

  18. Racine Girl said :

    "There is typically more crime in the inner-city".

    Can you explain why this is?

    I am quite sure there is a heavier police presence in the "inner city", so why is there more crime?????????

    There should be less crime then right??? LMAO.

    Be honest now, we all know what the answer to my question is....LOL.

  19. Anon 4:30-

    Hi John, serving appetizers yet??

    Make sure to call the Post before you do so they can get a sweet photo op.

    Party on!!

  20. Sup. Diane Lange8/05/2009 4:51 PM

    Hello Racine! I helped to again host the NNO Picnic in our northside block. It was well-attended and alot of fun. We got to sing happy birthday to Leone Townsend who is an amazing woman who has modeled the essence of being a good neighbor for us all. The children especially loved having the street closed off and being able to play games and zoom around on their bikes. I appreciate the chance to catch up news with various.

    As an elected official I especially appreciate the huge amount of effort that goes into this annual community-building activity in our city. Kudos to the Neighborhood Watch staff for the effort they put forth every week to knit the fabric of our community a bit tighter, safer, and friendlier.

  21. Boy, Jody Harding supporters really do not like the mayor.

  22. Racine is in need of these kinds of activities on a regular basis to promote inclusion of all races. At least minorities can become involved in these activities and not be excluded as in the planned events (planned by who?) downtown and in the outlying areas.
    Racism is as much of a fixture here as the Johnson Wax tower and it stands out in the same way.

  23. It will take more than a night out to bring this city to a level of socialization that encourages incusion of all people.

  24. Ms. Lange, I know you from working at the city. I am glad you had a successful event, however what I experienced yesterday was not pleasant. I saw children and teenagers running around being disrespectful and littering. Mary is not responsible for this either. There are areas of Racine that are deteriating rapidly. I have lived in Racine all my life and I can see things getting worse. Yes I understand thisis negative but it is the truth. I don't know what the answer is but I would like to see a greater police presence on the near south side, that would be a start. I am a taxpayer and have been involved in community events in the past, so I have tried to make a difference.

  25. I was in the area of Grand and Villa and I have to say I saw alot of garbage on the streets, like after the 4th of July parade. I would like to thank the person who swept Villa St. though. Unfortunately I have to admit I would not walk down either of those streets at night.

  26. Is it just me or does the picture of Jeff Coe make him look like he's in a gay porno flick?

  27. Anon 4:33

    Who took the pic??

  28. National night out does need to happen more often.

    We start our event with a litter hike. The kids gather all the trash and sweep up and get rid of glass. Our street party starts off neat and clean. All the kids get a freeze pop for helping, ranging in age from 2-15. They play all day and get a hot dog lunch.

    We have many other free activities, that are low cost for us to provide. Then we all clean up again before barricades come down.

    The police are not around a lot. We have to get to know the kids and where they live. Then I also meet the parents if need be.

    Investing in a home is not enough. You have to invest in your block and then that soon becomes not enough. You have to keep branching out to make a difference.