Popular National Night Out event canceled this year

Joshua Baethge,
The Van Alstyne Leader
The 2019 National Night Out event in Van Alstyne drew more than 1,000 people. This year's event has been canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 has claimed another event.

On Aug. 6, the Van Alstyne Police Department announced that this year’s National Night Out festivities have been canceled.

“It’s a big event and we really hated to cancel it, but it’s in the best interest of the community,” Van Alstyne Police Chief Tim Barnes said.

The event typically attracts upward of 1,000 people, many of them kids.

From a logistical standpoint, proceeding with the event presented too many challenges. For one thing, National Night Out is held each year at a small location, which would have made social distancing next to impossible to achieve.

Enforcing safety precautions among a crowd of that size also likely would have been problematic.

The National Night Out program is a nationwide community-building campaign intended to promote partnerships between the police and the community.

In Texas, it is typically held on the first Tuesday in October. The rest of the country usually observes it August, although the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into those plans for many communities.

This year, cities across the state and the country are grappling with how to handle the event. Some have postponed it in hopes that virus numbers will improve.

Others have determined that the changing nature of the pandemic makes planning for any large-scale event simply impossible.

Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people, though some exceptions are allowed.

In 1984, the first National Night Out event included 2.4 million people in 23 states. These days, nearly 40 million people in over 16,000 cities participate.

Locally, Van Alstyne has participated in the program for more than 25 years.

Last year’s festivities included a kiddie train, bounce house and dunking booth. Representatives from multiple public safety departments attended, as well as a host of community organizations.

“We hated to cancel it, but we just thought it was the best thing to do,” Barnes said. “We look forward to next year’s” event.

A kiddie train was among the featured activities at the 2019 National Night Out event in Van Alstyne, which will not be held this year.