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Community turns out for 'Night Out'

Alexandria City Park was busy Tuesday night, Aug. 7, as hundreds of people turned out the annual "Community Night Out" celebration hosted by the Alexandria Police Department and City of Alexandria. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 1 / 4
The Meichsner brothers, Austin, Caleb and Luke, who are 5, 3 and 1, respectively, got an up-close and personal look inside a LifeLink III medical helicopter at Tuesday's "Community Night Out." Brad and Sarah Meichsner of Alexandria are their parents. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 2 / 4
About 1,200 hot dogs were served during the annual "Community Night Out" celebration Tuesday at Alexandria City Park. For nearly two hours, there was a long line for the free hot dogs, chips, pop and water, which was served by members of the Alexandria Eagles Club. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 3 / 4
Dave Saline takes a picture of his grandson, Beckem Engle, 4, with Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Andy Brinkman. Saline and his grandkids, who are from Maple Grove, were vacationing in Alexandria. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press) 4 / 4

Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels had thought last year's "Community Night Out" was the best ever, but said all that changed Tuesday night.

"It was the biggest crowd and the best one yet," the chief said. He estimated attendance at Alexandria City Park at between 1,000 and 1,200 people, dubbing the event a "big community picnic."

The Alexandria Police Department, in collaboration with the city, hosted the annual event, "Growing Stronger by Building Strong Community Partnerships."

Young kids on up to older adults enjoyed the free event, which included hot dogs, chips and frozen custard, demonstrations, prizes, an inflatable "Fire Hopper," kids' games and more.

Wyffels believes the turnout was due in part to the weather and the free food, but mostly because of how Alexandria residents have rallied around its police force and law enforcement in general.

"Our community people have really stepped up to the plate to support us," said Wyffels, who added how much he and his officers appreciate everyone's support.

Police Captain Scott Kent called it an "unbelievable crowd." He said the food line started at 4:30 p.m. and was non-stop almost the entire time.

Kent noted another contributing factor to the event's success was an additional handful of community partners that participated.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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