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REEDSPORT — National Night Out and Reedsport's 100th birthday were celebrated with a barbecue block party Tuesday, Aug. 6, bringing record numbers to Lions Park for the event.

A cardboard cut-out of Dolly Parton makes an appearance at Wulfy Beach during a National Night Out event Tuesday in Lakeside.

Lions Park was crowded with hundreds of residents coming to hang out with the police, firefighters, paramedics and coast guard personnel -- meeting the people who keep the community safe and learning more about what they do. The event featured a barbecue dinner provided by the Lions Club and Lower Umpqua Hospital, a birthday cake, and ice cream from Umpqua Bank; there were also a number of games for kids, such as a sack race and bean bag toss, from the Rotary Club.

The highlight of the evening was the Coast Guard boat. Children were allowed to go aboard to look around the craft and ask questions, triggering the siren and horn several times while looking at the controls; when not answering questions, the Coast Guard representatives stayed discreet, but nearby to make sure nobody touched what they weren't supposed to. People were also allowed to look around a fire engine and ambulance that were parked onsite.

"We always like having the Coast Guard here, and the fire engine, the kids love that," said Reedsport Mayor Linda McCollum. "I think it's a great event that they have all over the country."

She noted many communities have stopped holding the event, due to low turnout, and recalled Reedsport didn't have it for awhile; the city started doing it again, though, and McCollum said they see good cooperation with the police and other emergency services. The mayor also noted how important the event is for the community, since it allows them to interact with responders in a casual, fun environment. Assistant Fire Chief Harold Rose said National Night Out is a good idea; he recalled that many Reedsport firefighters stay on longer than the norm for a volunteer fire department, protecting the community for 30 years or more.

People gather on Wulfy Beach during a National Night Out event Tuesday at in Lakeside.

Officer Clark, of the Reedsport Police Department, said the responders are all important people when it comes to the city's safety and security. He said National Night Out is a good opportunity to get involved with the community and show that they're citizens too and not mean or scary people.

"It's always good to just chit chat with everybody when it's not an actual emergency," said paramedic Mindy Wilson.

Rose noted the event also serves to show the community what their tax dollars buy. He said the fire department likes to bring their newest equipment to show off and explain what it does.

Machinery Technician Dean, with the Coast Guard, said National Night Out is especially important for the kids. The event allows them to meet the emergency responders one on one casually rather than when they're scared or stressed -- one result of this is the kids will be more comfortable asking for help or trusting a responder during an emergency. It also allows them to see equipment and learn things they might not get to under normal circumstances.

"Even living this close to the coast a lot of people don't get this type of experience, so it's really good," Dean said.

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Reporter Adam Robertson can be reached at 541-297-3590, or by email at adam.robertson@theworldlink.com.

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