As morning broke, it seemed the perfect day for Akron’s 16 National Night Out events scattered throughout the city.
The annual event, held at cities across the country, promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.
After Sunday’s shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, the event seemed poised to engage a public fed up with gun violence.
But Mother Nature intruded with intermittent rains and winds that knocked down tents at the North Hill site, canceled a concert at Firestone Park Community Center and washed out attendance at the Summit Lake Community Center.
In North Hill, the “We Care” theme for Akron’s events was evident as about 20 adults and children clustered around the lone remaining tent.
There, organizers Gary and Patricia Wyatt helped volunteers pass out school supplies while a steady rain fell.
“We had been preparing food all day for about 500 people,” Gary Wyatt said. The North Hill event is usually one of Akron’s biggest, drawing 300-500 people, he said.
Council candidate Phil Lombardo held an umbrella as Gary Wyatt spoke and mothers picked through the assorted school clothing.
A stage that had been prepared for presentations on gun safety and stun-gun usage remained empty. Wyatt said the event would have been especially appropriate after the weekend shootings.
“We’re glad it never hit Akron,” he said. “As a whole, the city [has] come together.”
Gary Wyatt said he’s working with groups to participate in the Sept. 8 First Serve 2019, an interfaith event in Akron.
At the Summit Lake Community Center, organizer Warren Lynum was disappointed in the turnout.
Most of the center’s activity was centered around the farmers’ market. In the gymnasium, a few booths lined the walls, with participants ready to tout their organizations and the Night Out message.
It was the first year for the Summit Lake station, and Lynum came late to the game after a family tragedy sidelined the previous organizer. He said that the event will be held again next year in Summit Lake.
Attendance was a bit better at Firestone Park Community Center.
Organizer Penny Bomba said she had to cancel a planned concert, but still expected about 100 people to attend from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Outside the doors of the center, several police officers spoke with individuals interested in the Night Out message. Inside, hot dogs were available and organizations had booths in the main room.
Akron resident Juliet Shreve brought her grandchildren to the Firestone Park location and planned to visit another.
Shreve said she liked the message of the Night Out organization.
“When you come together, you get things done,” she said.
She’s recently seen the effect of crime close to her. Too often, she said, “people are too scared to talk.”
Turnout this year was disappointing, Bomba said, but the event has been growing in popularity over the years.
“That community engagement — you can’t do that often enough,” she said. “The tragedies happen, but there are so many positive messages that come out of this.”
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or emailed at email@example.com.