For decades, the National Night Out program has served as a way to promote safe neighborhoods and strengthen community relationships with emergency personnel.

Some of the earliest ways of celebrating the 30-year-old annual event, which occurs the first Tuesday of August, included campaigns encouraging residents to turn on their porch lights.

The program has, in some cases, morphed into a huge social event with police and fire department demonstrations, helicopter landings, live entertainment, pool parties and fireworks.

Hobart’s first National Night Out program was held in 2009, Hobart police Lt. Jack Grennes said.

The event had block parties in two neighborhoods, and police and firefighters visited each of the parties. Grennes said more residents started hosting block parties during Night Out events in years that followed, and it became difficult for emergency personnel to visit each site.

In 2012, Hobart officials decided to host the program at the city pool. It was estimated more than 600 residents attended that year, Grennes said.

Attendance increased again last year, and city officials determined a new site was needed to accommodate the growth.

That prompted Hobart officials to partner with the School City of Hobart to have tonight’s event at Hobart High School, 2211 E. 10th St.

The program, which is open from 5 to 9 p.m., includes demonstrations and displays from the Hobart Police and Fire departments, the city’s K-9 unit and the Northwest Regional SWAT team.

Child identification cards, bounce houses, face painting, a balloon artist, concessions and a helicopter landing will be featured. Free food is available to those 18 and younger

The Crawpuppies will perform from 6 to 8:45 p.m., and a fireworks show will follow.

Gary is dedicating its National Night Out event to the memory of Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield.

Sponsored by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and the Gary Police Department, the event is from 6 to 9 p.m. at Froebel Park at 15th and Madison streets. City spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said there are plans to have Westerfield's family out to offer words and run the slide show that was presented at his funeral.

"The whole message of National Night Out is for the community to come out to show we are not afraid to be out at night time," Whittington said.

"As the mayor often says, there's only a small percentage of individuals wreaking havoc in our community. This is a night to show that we outnumber you, we are law-abiding and we are not afraid."

Whittington said it's also an opportunity for the community to get to know law enforcement and public safety officials and "interact with them in a positive environment instead of only seeing them in the time of emergency."

Gary's National Night Out includes voter registration, food, music, movies in the park, giveaways, K-9 demonstrations and fingerprinting.

Hammond holds its Night Out from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Wolf Lake Splash Pad, 12100 Calumet Ave.

Sponsored by Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., Hammond community/crime watch groups and NIPSCO, the event is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness and generate support and participation for local anti-crime efforts.

Activities include a meet-and-greet with members of the fire and police departments, finger printing, a drunk driving simulator, face painting, sidewalk chalk drawing, police and fire vehicles for viewing, vendors and music by DJ Suav'e.

A free hot dog, chips and pop will be given with a donation of a cleaning supply for "Reclaim Our Kids" at the Sabaitis Educational Institution, an organization committed to the education and instruction of individuals for the purposes of improving and developing capabilities to overcome poverty, abuse, phobias, bullying, gangs and social injustice.

Hammond Councilwoman Janet Venecz, president of the Edison community watch group, said the city didn't sponsor a National Night Out of its own for several years until community and crime watch groups started it up again six years ago.

East Chicago’s observance is from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Washington Pool and Park, 4298 Grand Boulevard.

There will be swimming, a bike raffle, a freedom balloon release, a blow-up rock wall and music.

The Police Department's K-9 patrol will be there. Visitors can tour police and fire rescue vehicles. The Lake County Sheriff's Department also will attend with its helicopter.

Merrillville's Night Out event is from 6 to 8 p.m. at Town Hall, 7820 Broadway.

The event features crime prevention tips, a “battle of the badges,” a magician, giveaways, face painting, many activities for children and food vendors.

The Munster Police Department and Choice Community Council collaborated for the town’s celebration from 5 to 9 p.m. at Munster Community Pool, 8837 Calumet Ave.

Activities include free swimming for Munster residents (an ID is needed), kids games, a magician, a police helicopter landing, K-9 demonstrations, police explorers dunk tank and a souvenir photo booth. A Civil War living history exhibit and a display of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances are among the many offerings there.

In Schererville, National Night Out will be celebrated from 6 to 9 p.m. at Redar Park, which is near Austin Avenue and Gregory Street.

The town’s event, which is designed to promote support and participation for law enforcement and anti-crime programs, includes music, games and food.

The Dyer Night Out event is from 5 to 9 p.m. at Pheasant Hills Park, 2301 Hart St.

There will be giveaways, activities for children and vendors.

Portage police, police reserves and the fire department hold Night Out event from 5 to 9 p.m. at Meijer’s parking lot, 6050 U.S. 6. The city’s SWAT team, K-9 units, police motorcycles, command center and fire equipment will be on display.

In Valparaiso, officers will visit Essex Park, Lexington Green, Pine Creek, Parkside, Hawthorn, Mistwood, Meridian Woods, Keystone Commons, Campbell Meadows and Oak Grove neighborhoods. Police will visit those local events between 6:30 and 8:50 p.m.

Calumet City hosts a Night Out event with food, music and free use of the Family Fun Center's batting cages, splash pad and miniature golf. It begins at 6 p.m. at Memorial Park, 612 Wentworth Ave.

A celebration in Sauk Village is open from 5 to 9 p.m. behind the Municipal Center, 21701 Torrence Ave. There will be vendors and community organizations in attendance. Residents also can register for Sauk Village email alerts. At 7 p.m., there will be a K-9 demonstration.

Glenwood hosts its event at 6 p.m. at Arquilla Park, 225 Park Drive. The Village Board will meet at 7 p.m. at the park followed by live entertainment.

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Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.

Metro Editor