National Night Out is Tuesday, but Papillion started the effort early to bring the community together.
"First guy in the door has got to carry the shield," explained a Sarpy County Sheriff's deputy while a young boy held a police riot shield. Several agencies including the Papillion police had activities set up outside the Papio Bay Aquatics Center on Sunday night. It was a chance in Papillion to get to know the things most people see on the news or in an emergency.
"A lot of the people we meet are people that are victims of crimes," said Papillion Police Officer Tony Foster. "So that's not always the best case scenario to sit down and talk with people. This is a positive event and it allows us an opportunity to interact with them in a positive way."
Becky Lehr and her children got to know Lucy, a mounted patrol horse with Omaha police. Lehr said community events like the Papillion Night Out make her feel safer in her neighborhood. "It makes for a nice place to live. I mean, there's a reason Papillion keeps getting voted so high in all of these magazines and stuff like that because everybody's always here for each other."
There was swimming, diving, sliding, splashing, a DJ, food and fun, but people meeting people was the main goal.
"Nowadays, as busy as people's lives are, you don't really have a chance to get out and meet your neighbors, so it's a good opportunity to get out and see some people that you've never seen before and meet new friends." Jason Holmes' two sons met some firemen and police officers as they made their way around before swimming.
Both boys had their favorites. Cameron loved the helicopter. "Because I haven't seen one in my whole life."
Oliver liked "saying hi to the police officers."
"They have a lot of fun," said Jason. "Hot dogs and ice cream don't hurt!"
Police hope it all ends up helping make a safer place to live. "They get an idea that we're real people and we're here because we care. Most of the information we get when we're investigating a crime comes from our citizens. So, national night is a big deal to us to remind them, if you see something that doesn't look right, give us a call."
Papillion neighborhoods and several others in the metro will take part in National Night Out on Tuesday. There will be block parties and get-togethers, neighbors getting to know each other and police.