MARSHALL - People of all ages had the opportunity to interact with law enforcement, emergency personnel and others from various agencies and organizations at the seventh annual National Night Out celebration Tuesday at Justice Park in Marshall.
The event provides an ideal atmosphere for the personnel in attendance to positively interact with residents in the county and for those residents to share their appreciation for the people who oftentimes put their life on the line to protect or serve area communities.
"This is the beauty of the event, for all the residents of the community to see the officer's human side," Lyon County Sheriff Mark Mather said. "It's different than seeing them at a traffic stop or something. It's nice to just visit with people when it's not during a trial or tragedy."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Bradley Guggisberg, left, and Decker Pollock went face-to-face with a goat at the petting zoo during the 2014 National Night Out event Tuesday at Justice Park.
All of the activities scattered throughout the park were family-friendly and had representatives nearby to assist people and answer questions. The interaction, Mather said, was positive for everyone involved.
"It gives the kids an opportunity to sit in a police car or ambulance," he said. "I encourage all our young deputies to come out because it's good to have them meet people and mix in the community. It's a good experience all around."
Thanks to generous donations from area businesses, local law enforcement agencies are also able to hand out drug prevention books at the celebration and to school children during the year.
Ten-year-old twins Daveton and Veston Fearon, along with their 8-year-old brother Nico, enjoyed sitting in the North Memorial Air Care helicopter.
"It was fun," Daveton Fearon said.
The Fearons, who live in Grand Island, Nebraska, were in town visiting relatives Jessie and Brian Erickson, who live across the street from Justice Park, and decided to come over to the celebration. The event provided a unique opportunity for them.
"My brother Daveton wants to go into the Army, and I want to be in the FBI," Nico Fearon said. "My other brother (Veston) doesn't know what he wants to do yet."
Along with a snow plow, a MnDOT vehicle and a Hazardous Materials truck, people could also climb inside of one of the two North Memorial ambulances. EMTs Adam Tupman and Alex Bitton, along with paramedic Richard Serreyn, were on hand to help answer questions and help people in and out of the trucks. Ryley Serreyn and Isaac Schmitt were two of the many who took advantage of the opportunity to check it out.
"It was pretty good," Ryley Serreyn said about his experience in the ambulance. "My dad is a paramedic. It's pretty cool when he comes to school and talks about his job."
Deylin Hasert, and twins Madysson and Makayla, interacted with Bitton in the second ambulance.
"It's always fun to come here," Bitton said. "It's nice to be outdoors instead of being cooped up inside."
After stepping outside, Hasert was eager to talk about the experience.
"It was cool," he said. "I learned a lot of stuff. And I got rubber gloves."
North Memorial, run out of the Twin Cities, has a regional outreach with Marshall, Minneota and Redwood Falls. Marshall has four North Memorial Ambulances and the air care helicopter is located in Redwood Falls.
Lyon County officer Tyler Sandgren was kind enough to assist young Annabel and Austin Coudron in a squad car, even allowing them to turn on the lights. While Austin started in the passenger seat, he quickly wanted to join his sister after she got in the back seat.
Rico, a 5-year-old Belgium Malinois police drug dog, was also in attendance with handler Richard Shamla, a Chippewa County Sheriff deputy. According to Mather, Marshall does not have its own drug dog, so it is appreciative of the access it is provided with from Chippewa and Murray counties throughout the year.
"We always have access from them," Mather said.
After going through the bouncy obstacle course with her sister Madeline and Julia, Katherine Prahl proudly showed off her Lyon County Junior Deputy stick-on badge she received.
Attendees of all ages seemed to thoroughly enjoy Jessica's Little Rascals petting zoo critters. Most had never seen newcomer Tinkerbelle, a 7-week-old miniature horse filly.
"It's only Tinkerbelle's second outing," owner Jessica Kesteloot said. "She was born on June 13. She's been so friendly at home, so I decided to bring her with. People always love babies."
Jessica and Charlie Wyffels, who are related to Kesteloot, know the petting zoo animals pretty well.
"I like Wilma, the pot-bellied pig and the ponies," Jessica Wyffels said. "Wilma's funny because she sometimes goes in the (Little Tikes) swimming pool and lays down."
Charlie Wyffels said he especially like the ponies, too.
"They're named after the Little Rascals," he said. "They aren't here (Tuesday) but they're the ones that give the rides."
Charlie Wyffels said his favorite part about National Night Out was the food. As a Girls Scout, Jessica Wyffels helped serve hot dogs at the event. But the ponies were always on her mind, especially after having had the opportunity to ride three of them recently.
"I got to ride three of Jessica's ponies on Sunday," Jessica Wyffels said. "One of them, Blue, she went all rodeo on me, but I held on. She's named Blue because of her blue eye."
When asked about her overall experience at National Night Out, Jessica Wyffels said she was "having a blast."
Youngsters Emma and Braeden Myhre took turns whacking oversized marshmallows for the marshmallow driving contest. Contestants had the chance to win a prize, consisting of a large first aid kit, golf balls, candy and gift certificates, if any of their three drives were the longest recorded during the event.
Near the end of the event, members of the Marshall Fire Department gave a Jaws of Life demonstration, strategically ripping apart a four-door vehicle to show how they typically go about extracting victims in a car accident.