VALDOSTA — Bigger and better than ever, National Night Out took over the Valdosta State University front lawn earlier this week. 

Ice cream vendors, Wild Adventures Theme Park and just about every first responder unit in the Valdosta-Lowndes County area were present for the free event that drew hundreds at a time to the VSU’s best-known spot.

“The whole National Night Out is based around community policing,” said VSU Sgt. Heidi Browning, who plans the event. “The whole point of it is to get the community and law enforcement together so all of us can work as one.”

This marked the third year Browning has supervised the VSU event but National Night Out has swept all 50 states and 16,000 communities since 1984.

It’s always the first Tuesday of August, with the exception of a few communities that do it in October, Browning said.

Not only were there more people on the lawn this year than the past two years, she said. She was able to get more vendors this year as well, with many people serving up free food, interactive units and brochures.

Target was the event’s biggest sponsor, providing free hamburgers and hotdogs to a long line of people. Moody Air Force Base's helicopter was a new addition to the front lawn event this year as well, Browning said. 

Wild Adventures, who has been in a year-long partnership with VSU to provide students access to the theme park, was also present with a spinning wheel that awarded free prizes and two reptile ambassadors for guests to pose for photos.

“Our partnership with Valdosta State University has been a big success in its first year, and we’re getting ready to welcome the incoming freshman class in just a few weeks,” said Adam Floyd, public relations manager for Wild Adventures. “We’re looking forward to that and continuing to build this partnership for years to come.”

The Valdosta Police Department has made an effort to attend the event every year with a few officers onsite showing off their squad cars, this year a Ford Mustang, and the Mobile Command Vehicle.

The kids love the interactiveness of the VPD’s vehicles, said J.B. Jones, traffic unit supervisor sergeant, and it gives his officers a chance to let the community know they’re here to help.

“We always love to come out and let our community know we’re here for them, and they can always come talk to us if they need us,” Jones said.

Browning said because the event grows more and more successful every year, she hopes she can keep planning the event for years to come.

“Hopefully I’ll be doing it for a lot more years,” Browning said. “I’m hoping next year more people will contact me and tell me they want to come out. I think each year will get bigger because more people will learn what it is.”

Katelyn Umholtz is a reporter with the Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256.

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