National Night Out spurs good natured fun in Braidwood

SPARKY IS TAKEN into custody on Aug. 2 on a curfew violation at Old Smokey City Park. BPD photo.

Marney Simon

A night of fun for families, entertainment, and prisoner exchange.

This year’s National Night Out went above and beyond in Braidwood, providing for the community not only a night of entertainment, but a light hearted rivalry that played out over the past week on social media.

Police Chief Todd Lyons said around 1,500 people filtered in and out of the event on Aug. 2, which was held at Old Smokey City Park and featured the Braidwood Police Department, the Braidwood Fire Protection District, Braidwood ESDA, the Wilmington Police Department, the Will County Sheriffs Department, and other local law enforcement and civic groups.

“It’s bringing law enforcement and the community together,” Lyons said on the event, which takes place nationwide each year on the first Tuesday of August.

The event is designed to enhance the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement and bring back a sense of community.

“I think it’s just bringing the community and the police together for a fun event,” Lyons said, adding that some people tend to view law enforcement as just an authority figure, and community events allow those same folks to get to know the men and women behind the badge.

However, this year’s event did include one arrest.

Lyons said a member of the department spotted Sparky—the mascot of the Braidwood Fire Protection District—in the park.

“When we were closing up shop and cleaning up, we realized Sparky was wandering in the park after curfew,” Lyons said. “So, we took him into protective custody and took him down to the police department... He exercised his rights, he remained silent.”

Sparky was booked into the local jail for being out after curfew.

“After the calculation, we took his age and we multiplied it by seven, we realized he wasn’t violating curfew,” Lyons said, adding that an exchange was arranged with the Braidwood Fire Protection District.

The department even held a “press conference” regarding the arrest, before coming to an agreement with the fire department—Casey’s breakfast pizza in exchange for the prisoner.

“We trusted the Braidwood Fire Department that they would do the right thing, but when we opened up the pizza box it was filled with a dozen donuts,” Lyons said. “Then they posted on their Facebook page Sparky and them eating the pizza.”

The “prisoner exchange” was captured on video and posted to the Braidwood Police Department’s Facebook page.

Lyons said the fire department still pulled a fast one, filling the breakfast pizza box with day old donuts.

Lyons said the good spirited mischief was an extension of both the police and fire department’s efforts to be a part of the community.

“It’s about having fun with the fire department and connecting with the public,” Lyons said. “We have a great relationship with ESDA and the fire department, all three have a great working relationship which makes it nice. We had fun.”

Lyons said the BPD spent around $5,000 on the National Night Out event, which included food, entertainment, information booths, inflatables, and a dunk tank. But, he added, that expense was paid for through donations from local businesses.

The department was also able to fundraise for this year’s Blue Santa and Shop with a Cop events, which take place during the holiday season. Lyons said the BPD is currently in the process of working with the school district on selecting students and families to participate in those annual events.