National Night Out (NNO) is a nationwide community event that has been held in the early evening on the first Tuesday in August at local communities across the U.S. since 1984. NNO is a well-organized “annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie”. To that end, NNO has been a long-standing tradition in Los Banos and the Los Banos Police Department teams up with local businesses and organizations to provide the local population a fun night out. This Los Banos ‘party’ is held at the confluence of the streets near city hall and the police department where the festivities begin with a locally popular band performing and continue with a food truck throwdown and various side activities on both streets. Finally, the event culminates with a free raffle of high-value brand-new prizes donated by local businesses.
This was my third NNO in Los Banos and at the last two annual events I have helped community activist and State Farm Insurance agent, Joe Gutierrez stage manage the bands. This year I had the privilege to cover all the key events for our community newspaper.
The festivities started with Joe announcing the very popular regional band he sponsored, Exito Norteño, a danceable style of Mexican music loved in Los Banos. Juan Mendoza and his very tight, quartet band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, and of course, an accordion played a twenty-five-minute set until a break for the first raffle. The band recently added the very capable Michael from Los Banos to play bass.
The raffle prizes were brought out by the Los Banos Police Explorers and set up on a table adjacent to the band stage. The initial prizes ranged from children’s colorful backpacks, high-end travel cold mugs and Apple tablets. Of note of personal emotion here were local children whose parents couldn’t afford such relative luxuries and showing extreme happiness with receiving their prizes, since some of their families are struggling with the rising costs of housing, food and energy.
The band returned to play another longer set as people started dancing in the crowd. Those in attendance were also enjoying visiting the various community sponsored booths like the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce, the Los Banos Police and Fire Departments, the Merced County Sheriff’s Department, and many other contributing organizations. Others were visiting the side shows of bull riding, tug-of war and various fun games provided by local school and other organizations. Still others were visiting the myriad of regional taco trucks lined up to serve their community donated, one dollar street tacos with such eclectic flavors like seasoned and grilled asada, chorizo, and many other flavorful meats mixed with fresh cilantro, onions, tomato salsa and other secret seasonings. My favorite of the day was the al pastor style pork tacos on two soft grilled corn tortillas and served with freshly sliced radish and lemon by Nineve from JJ Tacos & Mariscos taco truck from Los Banos.
Also, in the background, walking around the event and intermingling with the crowd, were the local members of the police, fire and sheriff’s departments explaining how their community work impacts and helps the local residents. Of particular note was the presence of the always friendly police department’s code enforcement officers and their commander. These are the guys that diplomatically keep our neighborhoods clear of abandoned cars, barking dogs, noisy neighbors, etc. so we can sleep comfortably at night.
After the band’s second set, the last raffle had even more luxury prizes from local generous sponsors ranging from X-boxes, bicycles, and ultimately a large screen high-definition television for example. During this night, as annually, ‘the meek inherited the earth” thanks to Police Chief Gary Brizee, Police Services Manager Brenda Geary, all other associated officers, organizations, and various sponsors for their continual loyal dedication to one of the most important community events in Los Banos. PS, great thanks for the ice-cold water!