Shaved ice, conversation and exotic animals accompanied Tosa's Night Out festivities this year.
Normally held at Wauwatosa's Hart Park, Tosa's Night Out relocated to the Milwaukee County Zoo this year due to ongoing construction in the Village of Wauwatosa. The annual family-friendly event is part of a nationwide effort to build community-police awareness with festivities culminating during the first week of August.
Despite the move to the zoo, turnout was expected to be just as high as past years, said Sgt. Brad Beckman of the Wauwatosa Police Department, who estimated about 2,000 people would attend the Aug. 3 event.
Beckman said the event provides an important opportunity for diverse groups across the community to gather, especially with the surge of attention on police relations lately.
Moving to the zoo
It's not the first time the event has relocated to the zoo on Bluemound Road. According to a statement from the police department earlier this year, the event relocated about 10 years ago when Hart Park was undergoing construction work.
Some thought the move to the zoo was a success, including Barb Schoenherr, a safety liaison for the Wauwatosa Village Neighborhood Association. During Tosa's Night Out, Schoenherr volunteered at a table near the "Bugs! Larger than Life" exhibit at the zoo.
"You can't beat the deal," she said.
Families paid up to $25 to go and, in return, enjoyed free parking (normally $12), T-shirts, access to train and carousel rides, and admission to the zoo all day. The festivities also included live music, food, community booths and the police department's K-9 unit.
Others, including Anne Roets Brown, who attended with Isaiah Malnory-Brown, said they missed some of the activities usually found at the event when it's held at Hart Park, like the ever-popular Flashlight Walk Against Crime.
"Elements are missing," Roets Brown said, adding she attends every year.
Neighborhood block parties
The Wauwatosa Police Department kicked off its National Night Out celebrations early this year, with four regional block parties in the community Aug. 1. Located at Madison Elementary School, the Fischer building, Longfellow Middle School and Wilson Elementary School, the block parties included a visit from police mascot McGruff, yard games and food for sale.
Beckman has said the block parties aimed to give the event more of an "at-home feel."