FELLSMERE – Roughly 500 Fellsmere and area residents turned out to the Fellsmere Police Department’s Night Out Against Crime, a holdover from August’s National Night Out.
Fellsmere Police Chief Scott Melanson said that having the event in October would hopefully mean cooler temperatures and less likelihood of rain. Tuesday night, he was right on both accounts.
Even from the start of the three-hour event, lines of people formed – in front of the dunk tank, at the child fingerprinting station, and the Health Department table where workers fit children with bike helmets.
Maria Espinoza stood in line with her 9-year-old daughter, Cindy, to get a helmet. She said she wanted Cindy to have a helmet for safety when riding.
Fellow mom, Rosa Solis, had her 4-month-old daughter, Jessica, fingerprinted.
“You never know what might happen,” Solis said. “I’m a very protective parent.”
Solis will hold onto the paperwork on which her daughter’s prints just in case anything happens to her child.
Aliyah Pantoja and her aunt, Maria Ramirez, toured the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office transport bus, which is used to move large numbers of arrestees or inmates between facilities.
“It was amazing and kind of creepy,” Pantoja said of walking the bus, knowing that people who had been arrested had been there.
“It’s neat,” Ramirez said. “I had no clue what it was.”
Farther back in the park near the Old Fellsmere School, at the end of the basketball court, Chief Melanson and County Commissioner Wesley Davis took turns in the dunk tank.
It took two passes in the of about 50 kids before Rafael Zamarripa finally connected with the small red target and Chief Melanson splashed into the water below.
Cheers and laughter rang through the crowd as the chief broke the surface of the water, wiping water from his face. Kids and adults all around slapped Zamarripa high fives.
The 10-year-old was the first to dunk the chief.
Zamarripa said baseball isn’t his game – he prefers soccer – and when asked if he were a hero for the night having been the first to dunk the police chief, he said, “I guess.”
Not to be outdone, others continued to line up and take their shots at Chief Melanson and Commissioner Davis.
“Oh look! A flock of turtles!” the commissioner, sitting on the plank in the dunk tank, told the next kid in line. The boy, clearly suspecting something, begrudgingly looked up in the sky and then back to the commissioner.
“Turtles don’t fly!” Chief Melanson heckled from behind police tape near the tank.
With that, the boy launched the ball, smacking the target at full speed.
Splash! went Commissioner Davis – and laughs punctuated the air.
Night Out Against Crime – like National Night Out – is a community event held to bring residents and law enforcement together in a non-threatening, non-crisis driven way.
It serves as a way for residents to meet the local officers and learn ways they can keep themselves, their families and their property safe.