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Town of Cleveland gathers downtown for National Night Out

CLEVELAND — Despite intense August heat, the community gathered in downtown Saturday night for Cleveland’s first National Night Out.

“We’re trying to host more events and create more community and this is another opportunity,” said Mayor Pat Phifer. “Partnering with the fire department and police department is a good fit. We want everybody to recognize who is here.”

Although National Night Out is always held on the first Thursday of August, the town decided to wait a few weeks to host the event in conjunction with one of its already planned summer concerts. National Night Out is a countrywide event designed to give community members the opportunity to connect with their local fire and police departments.

“Normally we meet people on their worst days, so it’s good for us to meet them on a positive note and not when they’re in desperate need,” said Greg Summitt, deputy chief of the Cleveland Community Volunteer Fire Department. “It’s good to put a face with our volunteers.”

The Cleveland Community Volunteer Fire Department had several trucks on display and set up a kids firefighter combat challenge, which gave children a chance to try their hand at firefighting without any of the danger. Led by fire and safety educator Paula Herion, participants carried fire hoses, crawled under a tent to rescue a bear and used a hammer to simulate having to break into a building

“Of course every kid’s dream is to be a fireman anyway, so if we can keep that dream going as long as we can until they get of age, that would be great,” Summitt said.

In addition to the combat challenge, the fire department offered reflective address location signs, which can help firefighters locate houses in places with poor visibility. The fire department also collected canned goods and other food items that’ll be donated to West Rowan food pantries and gathered school supplies that’ll be given to local schools.

The Cleveland Police Department had a tent set up at the event as well. There, officers handed out child identification kits and other pamphlets. While disseminating information was a plus, Police Chief Jon Jessop said the main goal was to connect with citizens.

“This is one night where we come together and meet with the community in one place,” Jessop said. “The community can come to one location and talk to officers, interact with them, ask them questions and really get to know them on a one-on-one basis in a situation that isn’t an event or anything.”

When the sun began to set Saturday night, people gathered in lawn chairs up and down Depot Street to listen to Divided By 4 play tunes from a cargo container that has been converted into a lighted stage. Free hot dogs and drinks were provided.

The town has hosted concerts every fourth Saturday throughout the summer. The events have brought the Cleveland community together and have even attracted folks from outside the town. 

Robin Griffis, who lives near Mooresville in Rowan County, said she has attended every concert this summer.

“Everybody that I’ve met here is super nice in this little community of people,” Griffis said. “The first time I came by myself and I felt so welcome I had to come back.”

Darrell Harwood played in Cleveland in June. The Chocolate Chip and Company brought their beach style music to the town in July. The concert series is part of an ongoing effort by the town to host more events and strengthen the bonds between the community. Those efforts, Phifer said, are paying off.

“There’s a lot more community awareness,” Phifer said. “People are really taking pride. This is good for the community. We’ve come a long way and this is a step in the right direction. More people, more participation. We just need more air conditioning.”

The bluegrass band Dirty Grass Souls will close the summer series out with a performance on Sept. 25. On Oct. 23, the town will gather once again for the unveiling of a new barn quilt on the side of the Cleveland Community Volunteer Fire Department. That same day, the town will open its new barn quilt walking trail. There will also be a chili cook off and concert.

More information about events in downtown Cleveland can be found by visiting TownofClevelandNC.gov or by emailing info@townofclevelandNC.org.

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