National Night Out had a special meaning in Highland Park this year

  • Highland Park Police personnel each were pictured on trading cards people could collect.

      Highland Park Police personnel each were pictured on trading cards people could collect. Dave Oberhelman; doberhelman@dailyherald.com

  • Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks with Curt's Cafe board President Rick Marsh. State Sen. Julie Morrison, in the red shirt, also attended the annual National Night Out.

      Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering speaks with Curt's Cafe board President Rick Marsh. State Sen. Julie Morrison, in the red shirt, also attended the annual National Night Out. Dave Oberhelman; doberhelman@dailyherald.com

  • U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider joins Carole Cohen as fellow Highland Park resident Mary Thompson snaps a picture.

      U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider joins Carole Cohen as fellow Highland Park resident Mary Thompson snaps a picture. Dave Oberhelman; doberhelman@dailyherald.com

  • Having a conversation are, from left, Highland Park Police community service officer Ryan Erjavac, officer Robert Wagner, Illinois Army National Guard, SFC, Samer Elguindy, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider and Highland Park officer Matt Bobek.

      Having a conversation are, from left, Highland Park Police community service officer Ryan Erjavac, officer Robert Wagner, Illinois Army National Guard, SFC, Samer Elguindy, U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider and Highland Park officer Matt Bobek. Dave Oberhelman; doberhelman@dailyherald.com

 
 
Updated 8/4/2022 11:35 AM

If any community deserved a night out, it was Highland Park.

Nearly a full month since a man used an assault rifle to kill seven people and injure dozens more at Highland Park's Independence Day Parade, people returned in force outside City Hall for National Night Out.

 

Held annually on the first Tuesday in August, the event promoting the partnership between residents and law enforcement began in 1984 and has since spread to cities in all 50 states.

The kids' bouncy house, the balloon twister and the Rainbow Cone ice cream -- inspired by Highland Park Police Chief Lou Jogmen's South Side background -- were among Tuesday's attractions.

But this is a city, and a mayor, that didn't need coaxing to appreciate its police department after what everyone had gone through.

"We, as a community, are taking our first steps forward toward our recovery, and knowing that we can come together safely, share a special summer evening together and honor those who have been here to protect our safety meant the world to me," said three-term Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.

"We always have a great crowd, and we always have a great showing from the many agencies who provide important services to the community. This night felt a little more robust. I don't know if it's because we all just really wanted to be together, but there's a lot of love going on in front of City Hall tonight," Rotering said, just as former 58th District Illinois Rep. Karen May gave her a big hello.

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Having delivered a speech earlier, the mayor walked freely among the crowd, people thanking her and praising her "great leadership," as one woman said.

Running from 6-8 p.m., the celebration spanned Laurel Park & Rose Garden, crossed the lawn in front of City Hall and spilled into the adjacent municipal parking lot, where Rainbow Cone drew a line.

Tables and tents lined sidewalks promoting businesses and groups such as American Legion Post 145 and the Highland Park-Highwood Lions Club. There was a small petting zoo of baby goats. A man with a large poodle was dressed like Popeye, and resembled him, too.

The table that advertised "Highland Park Strong" T-shirts had none left.

"This is really special. I'm glad that we were able to participate in this," said Rick Marsh, board president of Curt's Cafe, 1766 2nd St.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Because Highland Park -- as well as so many other communities, but especially Highland Park -- needed something like this. They needed to get out, and they needed to connect with their community, their neighbors," he said.

"You can't live in fear, and to have kids running around and just enjoying themselves, and the community connected, it was much needed, and this was just absolutely perfect for this community."

Officers from the 933rd Military Police out of Fort Sheridan walked in camouflage fatigues, with a Humvee parked nearby for display.

All 54 Highland Park Police personnel -- 55 including the new wellness dog -- were issued trading cards. Those were popular with children.

"There's a huge focus on 'guardian over warrior' in terms of this department, and in terms of making connections with everybody in the community," Rotering said.

Highland Park's was the third and final National Night Out celebration for U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10th), of Deerfield.

Earlier, he had presented seven North Chicago Police officers -- including Gary Grayer and Cory Collum, who respectively apprehended and handcuffed the shooter -- with American flags that had flown over the U.S. Capitol in their honor.

"This year, in Highland Park, it took on obviously a special meaning," Schneider said.

"The community was devastated by the shooting on July 4. Police are a part of our community, so they share the trauma that we've experienced as an entire community, but they carry that responsibility -- first, that day, of keeping us safe, identifying, locating and apprehending the shooter, and continuing to work in this community day in and day out. They haven't had a break, they haven't had a moment of respite," Schneider said.

"There are a lot of ways we can express our gratitude to them, and this community has and will continue to do that."

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