Children enjoy a tug-of-war game at the National Night Out event Tuesday night in the Kentlands neighborhood of Gaithersburg. Credit: Christine Zhu

Montgomery County residents celebrated National Night Out on Tuesday at dozens of events throughout the county that included family-friendly activities and the opportunity to meet local police officers, firefighters and first responders. 

National Night Out is an annual event on the first Tuesday of August that focuses on building relationships between law enforcement and communities. 

Neighborhoods hosted a variety of events ranging from block parties in Rockville to gatherings at community pools in Gaithersburg

Rob Krebs, vice president of Saybrooke Homeowners Association in Gaithersburg, said he expected around 300 people, including residents, elected officials, police, firefighters and first responders, to attend the neighborhood’s event at the Saybrooke pool. As people began to gather, he helped other organizers prepare the food table, which offered sandwiches from Jimmy John’s and chips. The event included a bouncy castle, music and other activities. 

“We want people to know it’s a friendly community, an open community, a community that’s diverse,” Krebs said. “We want to meet each other and talk to each other.”

Carolyn Garvey and Seth Kamen manned a table to recruit parents to join the PTA for Harriet Tubman Elementary School, which will open for the upcoming school year that begins Aug. 29. 

They said the most challenging aspect of being part of the inaugural PTA was establishing the group. National Night Out provided an opportunity to make the community aware that the new school will have a PTA.

“I love that it’s a way for us to get to know our neighbors,” Garvey said. 

Andrew Suh, deputy commander of county police department’s Sixth District, lives in Rockville, but said he planned to travel around the district, which covers Gaithersburg, to visit different events. 

The benefits of National Night Out include “getting out in the community” and “being able to talk to people,” he said while at the Saybrooke pool event, noting that not all National Night Out events were able to be held in recent years due to the pandemic.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who remains locked in a tight race against challenger David Blair in the Democratic primary, was among a handful of elected officials and candidates at the Kentlands/Lakelands event in Gaithersburg. State’s attorney John McCarthy, who won the Democratic primary and faces no Republican opposition in November’s general election, was also at the event, as well as staffers for other candidates who handed out campaign literature.

Elrich said he had visited multiple celebrations and spoken to many county residents throughout the evening.

“It’s been great,” he said. “For a lot of people, to be able to be out in public events, this is a nice change.”

The celebration featured tug of war, food trucks selling barbecue and ice cream, and a variety of games and activities. County police, firefighters and first responders gathered to speak to community members and answer questions about their jobs.

Elizabeth Monaco, executive director of the Kentlands Community Foundation, said the event was “really exciting.”

The foundation has aimed to keep the community together throughout the pandemic. Some events were moved to a virtual or outdoors setting while some were canceled altogether, but the foundation still did its best, she said.

National Night Out had a “really big turnout” of a few hundred people, Monaco said. 

“It’s a great community event,” she said. “It’s a great marker for people to remember to come out and enjoy their community.”