By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
More people attended the 2018 National Night Out on Grand Island Tuesday than at least the last four National Night Outs events combined.
"We had a good time," said Councilwoman Jennifer Baney, liaison to the town's Traffic Safety Advisory Board, which organized the event. She attributed the strong turnout to the annual event to collaboration among the TSAB members.
"We worked well together, utilized social media and tried to present a great event. I'd say our community's looking for unifying, fun, affordable events where they can connect with their neighbors," Baney said.
New this year to Grand Island's Night Out was a celebrity dunk tank. Patrons had an opportunity to throw a ball at a target for a chance to drop a fellow Islander into the drink. Money from the dunk tank went to the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation. Baney said it was her favorite part of the night.
"It's hard to not smile when you see Grand Island citizens in a dunk tank," Baney said. Among the celebrities who volunteered to enter the tank were Highway Superintendent Dick Crawford, Superintendent of Schools Brian Graham, Councilman Mike Madigan, and Fahim Mojawalla of the Island Ship Center.
The event included driving and bike safety demonstrations, Buffalo Dog House food and music in the Grand Island Rotary Gazebo. The Grand Island Fire Co. Ladies Auxiliary held a concurrent Chiavetta's chicken barbecue fundraiser at the firehall. Best of all, Islanders had a chance to meet their first responders and connect with fellow Islanders.
"It was just incredibly positive and everyone had a great night," Baney said. "The feedback was really good. People are already asking, 'Are you going to do it again next year?' "