By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Hundreds of residents attended dozens of celebrations held throughout the city Tuesday as part of community-building event called Tupelo Night Out.
Participating neighborhoods hosted their own gatherings in parks, parking lots, community centers and street corners. Some served hamburgers, others had inflatable bounce houses, a few featured music and entertainment.
All of them had ice cream, courtesy of the Tupelo Police and Fire departments, whose employees delivered the sweet treats to each party.
“It’s pretty cool,” said 11-year-old Mac McFerrin, who enjoyed ice cream and a tour of a police car at Joyner Neighborhood Association’s festival in City Park.
His 11-year-old sister, Allie, said she got to try on a bulletproof vest.
“Yeah, and we got locked up,” added 7-year-old Rhodes McCraty, who clearly enjoyed the pretend experience.
“My favorite part was getting to go to the red playground,” said Charlie Weir, also 7.
The coinciding events were aimed at fostering positive relationships among neighbors and building trust between residents and police officers, said Ward 4 City Councilwoman Nettie Davis.
Like other council members, Davis visited several of the festivals in her ward. Among them was a pool party at the C.C. Augustus Pool and Community Center organized by Park Hill.
Children splashed in the cool water while adults enjoyed food, card games and music.
“It’s good to give Tupelo something to do, especially for those who can’t afford to do things,” said Alice White, who brought her children to C.C. Augustus. “It’s a free night out – a positive thing – and even without transportation, people can still walk there.”
So many people attended Presley Heights’ celebration at Veterans Park that neighborhood organizers ran out of food and had to purchase more.
“It’s a great turnout,” said Keith Henley, who heads the neighborhood association. “I think we had at least 300 come and go.”
Bounce houses, hula-hoopers and a hot-air balloon kept that event’s participants in good spirits. The neighborhood also distributed information about big projects in the area and Henley invited everyone to attend regular meetings.
The events lasted from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mayor Jack Reed Jr. stopped by seven of them.
“It was absolutely successful,” he said. “People were so happy and positive. They really enjoyed doing this with their neighbors.”
Reed said he hopes the event will repeat next year.