Editor's note: Dozens of groups gathered in Lake Oswego driveways, front yards, cul-de-sacs and local parks Tuesday for National Night Out, a nationwide initiative designed to promote public safety, community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie. There were barbecues, potlucks, ice cream socials and more, along with visits from friendly police officers and firefighters. Review reporter Sam Stites crisscrossed the city to sample the celebrations; here's his report:
I remember attending a National Night Out event several years ago in my old neighborhood of Parkrose on Portland's east side. Hundreds of community members came out for an evening of music, games, food and socializing in a nearby park.
But Lake Oswego does National Night Out a little differently, as I learned while party-hopping from neighborhood to neighborhood this week.
I struck by how intimate each gathering was. Most of the events were attended by just 15-30 people, all of whom brought their own dish to add to the spread and lawn chairs that they parked in the shade on what turned out to be a very warm evening.
On Oak Meadow Court, Mary Jo Mastro and Chris Kuhr decided to host a National Night Out event after seeing it advertised in the City's Hello LO newsletter. Neighbors gathered in the couple's driveway to talk shop, sports, cars and more over a helping of Mary Jo's delicious baked ziti while children splashed in the pool out back.
"We are new to this area, and I thought, 'What a wonderful opportunity to meet our neighbors.' (Moving to Lake Oswego) has been awesome. A lot more people showed up than expected," Mary Jo said.
Less than a mile away, a war was being waged on Cherry Crest Drive as children armed with huge squirt guns battled in front of Lesley Landreth's home. The only thing that got them to stop: the arrival of a Lake Oswego Police officer and a squad car filled with cool gatdgets and buttons for the kids to check out.
"We moved here 10 years ago, and after 10 years we still didn't know everyone," Landreth said. "So this was a good opportunity to get to know everyone, as well as get to know some of the police and fire department. I think a lot of people are afraid of police right now, so it's nice for them to come out, be a friend and interact with the kids. They're trustworthy people, and we appreciate that."
Lake Oswego Police Chief Don Johnson mingled with guests and sipped on some ice-cold water provided by the hosts to beat the evening heat. He even made a connection with Mary Kay Larson over their shared origins in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Across the lake, the neighbors on Prestwick Drive were in full party mode at the end of Bill and Priscilla McClaughry's driveway. Food was plentiful, as was the wine. But what was even more abundant were the smiles and laughter that accompanied good conversation.
The McClaughrys have been residents of Lake Oswego for 43 years, but they only moved to their house on Prestwick Road a few years ago. Bill McClaughry said he feels the same intimacy among his new neighbors as he did when he lived on Chandler Drive.
"I think it's pretty darn consistent that if you reach out, people will respond. If you're kind, they will be kind. If you're receptive to their needs, they'll be receptive to yours," McClaurghy said. "That's the special part of this neighborhood, that people do reach out and are very helpful."