In the middle of it all was Richard S. Tamburini, Johnston’s long-serving police chief, who wore a wide smile on his face Tuesday evening.
“What a beautiful night,” he said. “This is fun, family and friends at its very best.”
Mayor Joseph Polisena called it a “great night for the citizens of Johnston to come out and meet other residents and our police and fire personnel.”
“Many residents look forward to this year after year,” he said.
Those statements spoke volumes about the many goings-on inside War Memorial Park, where the Johnston Police Department celebrated its 19th annual National Night Out event.
Children of all ages scooted in and around the swing sets, while countless adults waited in line to sample such delicacies as hot dogs, hamburgers and sausage and pepper sandwiches.
Even Paws, the Pawtucket Red Sox mascot, enjoyed the swings and joined a number of people for many requested photographs.
“Our National Night Out is part of tonight’s celebration that is happening throughout the country,” Tamburini said. “This is a true sense of community, [and] an opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances. This is a rewarding night for the police and the community.”
Deputy Chief Joseph Razza, like other Johnston officers, was impressed with the night’s attendance.
“This is the best turnout we’ve had for National Night Out in the last five years,” he said.
The food prepared by grillmaster Charles “Chuck” Psilopoulos was so popular that he ran into a dilemma. He ran out of rolls from The Original Italian Bakery and had to substitute hot dog rolls from Calise’s Bakery to fill the countless orders for sausage and pepper sandwiches.
As soon as Psilopoulos – who was assisted by Ray Daquila, School Resource Officer Jeff Chiccetelli and his son, Michael –finished grilling dozens of hot dogs and hamburgers, members of the Johnston Police Explores Post 405 stood by, holding aluminum trays they quickly filled and carried to awaiting volunteer servers.
“This looks like a large town-wide reunion,” said Mel Steppo, a one-time Johnston Police detective. “Looks like a great crowd.”
Capt. Christopher M. Correia, commander of the department’s Traffic/Special Services Bureau, coordinated Johnston’s expanded National Night Out celebration. He echoed Steppo’s sentiment.
“This was a great event,” he said while carrying many containers filled with desserts donated by businesses like BJ’s Wholesale Club and Brewed Awakenings. “Everyone enjoyed the food and had a good time; it was great to have an event with so many nice people from the community.”
Correia, whose mission was to increase attendance and expand the NNO, went on: “I’m really thankful for the assistance from the Parks and Recreation Department, school department, Explorers, recent graduates of the Citizens Police Academy and the many volunteers who always love helping to make this event extra special.”
At one point, Correia picked up a portable sound system and announced: “OK everyone, the chief is going to cut the cake!”
Correia issued what he called a “special thank you” to the many generous local sponsors that helped make NNO in Johnston an overwhelming success.
That the list included RI Dressed Beef and Veal, The Original Italian Bakery, Little Rhody Frankfurts, Stop & Shop, Calise Bakery, BJ’s Wholesale Club, FM Global/Hobbs Brook Management, Frank’s Rentals, My Cousin Vinny’s Rentals, Brewed Awakenings, Del’s Lemonade, Shroder’s Deli and the Pawtucket Red Sox.
“Thanks also goes out to the program’s national sponsors who took part,” Correia said. “They are Ring, Renewal by Andersen, A&W and AT&T.”