Five-year-old Janée Bastian skipped over to a group of police officers from the Freeport and Nassau County police departments. Before any of them spoke, she extended her hand and introduced herself to Nassau Officer Michael Cerlini of the 1st Precinct and struck up a conversation.
On Tuesday, Freeport’s Cow Meadow Park was transformed into a community block party to celebrate National Night Out. The event is held in thousands of communities annually on the first Tuesday in August. The tradition promotes police and community partnerships and fosters unity among officials and residents.
It was hosted by State Sen. John Brooks and County Legislator Debra Mulé, who partnered with a number of local elected officials to bring police and residents together in a fun, welcoming atmosphere.
“Freeport is special to me. It’s where I chose to raise my children . . .,” Mulé said. “I know firsthand what a special community Freeport is.”
While members of the Fire Department grilled hot dogs and burgers, a DJ played dance music. Teens from the International Youth Fellowship, a nonprofit organization focused on young people’s spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth, performed a series of dances. Some of the vendors, like the Bethpage Federal Credit Union, provided jumbo-sized games of Connect Four on the Super 4 In-Line board. Long Island Harvest gave away healthy snacks and offered information on its services.
The real stars were the Freeport fire and police departments. Residents made an effort to introduce themselves, but the children appeared to be the most impressed. They asked questions and hung out with firefighters and officers. Freeporters Nicolas Cordero, 3, and Chayse Dean, 5, wore plastic Fire Department helmets, and when they were invited to sit on the front seat of a fire truck, they jumped in.
Attending the event for the first time, Freeporter Iris Larios walked through the park and visited the vendor tables, which included local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Freeport, Planned Parenthood, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.
“There is so much negativity in everything, but despite it all, seeing my community come together gives me a feeling I can’t explain,” Larios said. “It makes me proud to be from Freeport.”
“Freeport’s probably one of the most diverse cities in this country,” Mayor Robert Kennedy said. “There are other communities that have ongoing unrest, but Freeport continues to enjoy harmony, peace and a great quality of life for our residents and businesses.”
“Communities are out celebrating what a community is about,” Brooks said. “We want to take time to recognize and to thank our law enforcement and first responders who help protect that, and make our communities what they are today.”