The Tosa's Night Out celebration will relocate to the Milwaukee County Zoo this year and local officials say that's because of ongoing construction in the Village of Wauwatosa and part of a larger effort to connect the community with police.
The family-friendly event, which is normally held at Hart Park, is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 3 at the zoo. It will cost families up to $25 to attend, marking the first time in recent years the public will have to pay for the community event.
The fee is well worth it, said Sgt. Brad Beckman of the Wauwatosa Police Department. The cost includes free parking (normally $12), T-shirts, access to train and carousel rides, a sea lion show, and admission to the zoo all day — even before the police-run events begin. As always, the event will feature booths and the police department's K-9 unit,
In fact, Beckman said it's possible Tosa's Night Out was 'underpriced.' The police department did not have registration numbers to date available, but Beckman said the event's website received more than 1,000 page views last week and he said it's not likely that attendance will be affected due to the move.
'We've got an incredible relationship with the public here,' he said, adding that compared to other communities' National Night Out festivities, Wauwatosa's 'blows them out of the water.'
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, Tosa's Night Out — part of a national, community-police awareness event in the United States that culminates annually on the first week of August — the event relocated about 10 years ago when Hart Park was undergoing construction work.
Several city officials said the relocation was not due to safety concerns, including Wauwatosa Common Council President Cheryl Berdan. The alderwoman said she never heard of any problems at Tosa's Night Out last year and that the city is not involved with any of the planning for the event — it all comes from the police department.
City Administrator Jim Archambo said the genesis of the relocation was due to ongoing construction in the Village.
Hundreds of youth gathered at Hart Park during last year's Tosa's Night Out event, but police said there were no incidents reported. Large groups of teens were gathered at the park after activities died down, but police dispersed crowds at the 11 p.m. curfew.
This year's Tosa's Night Out comes with a special twist; four regional block parties are scheduled two days before the zoo event, from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 1. The locations include:
· Madison Elementary School, 9925 W. Glendale Ave.
· Fischer Building, 12121 W. North Ave
· Longfellow Middle School, 7600 W. North Ave
· Wilson Elementary School, 1060 Glenview Ave.
Beckman said officers who patrol those neighborhoods will attend the block parties, which also will include tours of squad cars and fire trucks, yard games such as giant Jenga, Twister and Yahtzee, and food for sale from the Wauwatosa Wrestling Club, a fundraising effort.
The block parties will give the event more of an 'at-home feel,' Beckman said.
'The focus is to bring it back to what Night Out started with,' he said. 'It's kind of gotten commercialized and lost some of the focus.'
To register for Tosa's Night Out, visit tosasnightout.org.