By Maddy Vitale
Genevieve Conte and Ayla Downham are best friends. The Upper Township 3-year-old girls are inseparable. They had big plans Tuesday night when they ventured with their family to Sea Isle’s National Night Out celebration at the Excursion Park Band Shell.
What designs would they choose for face paintings?
Genevieve didn’t have to think too hard. “A princess,” she said.
Within minutes, Let’s Party Events artists transformed the little girl into a princess.
Genevieve’s best buddy opted for an action figure.
“I’m Wonder Woman!” Ayla said, after she was turned into the super hero.
The little girls and their families were just some of the people who filled the park to enjoy the free family night. A host of games, bounce houses, a photo booth where you could dress up in accessories and capture the memory, live music and giveaways filled the night.
Kids got to hop in a fire truck, S.W.A.T vehicle, a Sea Isle Beach Patrol life boat and jump on a lifeguard stand. Members of the various emergency services and agencies, including the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office, were on hand to speak with kids and show them the vehicles.
There was even a dunk tank to raise funds for Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s 2018 Holiday Toy and Food Drive.
Genevieve and Ayla, satisfied with their new look, had the dunk tank on their mind for their next activity. They rushed over to the tank because Genevieve’s dad was in the hot seat.
They laughed as they tried knocking him into the water.
On the other side of the park were two cool tossing games. The Quarterback Toss game seemed to have a never-ending line.
Sea Isle Patrolman Jonathan Micken was in charge of the popular game.
“This is always such a great event for kids to see what we do,” he said. “I’ve been coming to this National Night Out my whole life. Sea Isle is great.”
The event, for communities throughout the country, is designed to increase awareness of police programs, including drug prevention and other anti-crime efforts. There were several tables that featured useful information from different organizations, including AARP and ones that help those in need. There was also a pledge table in which children put their hands in paint and make imprints on the table cloth as a promise not to do drugs.
The night was especially a time for young people in the community to get to know their police officers in a fun environment, where they could see that officers are their friends and are there to help, Police Chief Tom McQuillen explained minutes before the event got underway.
“I’ve always had a big interest in National Night Out. We have really built Sea Isle’s up over the years,” he said. “It is just a great night to get residents and citizens out to interact with police, fire and EMS. It helps put a face on police and build relationships.”
The chief added, “We are like everyone else. We just do different jobs. It is our job to show people we want to be a part of the community.”
Sea Isle Public Information Officer Katherine Custer said the police department does a great job hosting National Night Out.
“We always get a large crowd thanks to many family friendly activities that are offered,” Custer said. “It is a great opportunity for kids and officers to meet and have a fun night.”
Sea Isle Patrolman Tom Ready and his wife, Loren, of Upper Township, brought their 8-month-old twin boys Patrick and Jackson to the event.
“It is a nice night for the family,” Loren Ready said.
Sea Isle Police Sgt. James McQuillen and his wife Loren and their children Avery, 3, and Rylee, 1, came out for a fun night.
Avery spent some time looking at designs to choose from to have her face painted.
Shannon Shepperd, of Bucks County, Pa., said National Night Out is just one of the many activities she and her family love when they come down to the shore over the summer.
“We come for vacation throughout the summer,” she said. “We love National Night Out. It is awesome. It is so much fun for the kids.”
The Shepperd kids, Brody, 6, Sienna, 4, and Hudson, 1, seemed to do a lot in a short amount of time.
“We just got here,” Shannon Shepperd said with a laugh.
In just minutes, the kids had already jumped in the Beach Patrol boat and hopped on the lifeguard stand. Brody did the Quarterback Toss game. They weren’t done yet.
It was on to face painting for Sienna.
For more information about activities in Sea Isle City go to www.visitsicnj.com.