Seven-year-old Taylor-Rose Skagerberg wanted to know more about Kaylee, the Fond du Lac police K-9, and she wasn't afraid to ask questions of Kaylee's partner, Sgt. Casey Rennquist.
That conversation — what kind of dog she is, how old she is, how long she's been on the force — was exactly why her family made the trip from Wrenshall to Veterans Park in Cloquet to be part of the National Night Out festivities Tuesday night.
"I don't want her to be afraid of officers, I wanted her to get to talk with them and interact with them," said mom Mistie Skagerberg. "Plus, he (big brother Austin Skagerberg, 14) wants to be a police officer, so we came down to view the options."
There were plenty of law enforcement officers in evidence (and uniform) at the third annual Cloquet National Night Out: police officers from Cloquet and Fond du Lac, Carlton County deputies, a border patrol agent, fire fighters, even members of the Carlton County Mounted Posse on their horses.
There were also plenty of citizens.
Cloquet Patrol Commander Carey Ferrell was working the grill all afternoon and evening, and calculated they'd gone through 480 hamburgers and 260 hot dogs by around 6:30 p.m., plus Interim Cloquet Police Chief Jeff Palmer had just returned with another 100 hot dogs.
"We planned for 600, but I think we're going to be closer to 1,000," said Ferrell of the crowd, and the food line that showed no signs of shortening.
That line snaked from the picnic shelter back into the parking lot for much of the evening, where Detective Darrin Berg was providing bikes and helmets to any kids who wanted to ride through the orange cones set up around the area. At the same time, Commander Derek Randall and several other officers were handing out bracelet and cups, while nearby paramedics explained what exact equipment goes in an ambulance to families who climbed in for a tour.
"It's a great turnout," said Randall. "It's nice to bring people together to get to know each other, and to put a face not only to law enforcement officers, but also to our spouses and family members who helped make it happen."
Things were certainly bustling all around the newly renovated park. Kids were climbing the National Guard rock wall, making and enjoying free cotton candy, jumping in the bouncy house or the inflatable slide, eating, playing with hula hoops and more. Several members of the Aurora Knights Christian Motorcycle Association decided to detour from their usual Tuesday night ride to come to the park. Folks of all ages were talking to each other, talking to police and firefighters, and a group of grandmothers even competed to see who could be the first to run to a police officer and hug him or her.
Much of the food and entertainment items were donated by local businesses, while others donated time or money to help make it happen. Randall praised a core group at the police department who worked to organize the event.
Palmer was thrilled with the turnout, and all the positive interactions that were happening because of it.
"It's all about bringing the community together, and the police and others, to strengthen our relationship. It's community policing at its finest, all over the nation," Palmer said, referring to the fact that National Night Out is a nationwide celebration. Some communities celebrate in neighborhoods, like Duluth. Cloquet has done a more centralized celebration for the past three years.