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Lathrop NNO block parties bigger than ever
Deputy Sheriff Jose Aleman of the Lathrop Police Services answers questions from a group of curious Lathrop youngsters during the National Night Out block party at the Mossdale Dog Park at River Park South. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
LATHROP – It was hard to ignore the obvious. The National Night Out block parties against crime held Tuesday night in Lathrop were bigger than ever.

At the Camino Real Mobile Home Park on South Harlan Road, several residents happily noted the noticeable increase in the number of people who came out to enjoy food and games.

“It’s a bigger turnout than last year. At least, three times than last year,” said a pleasantly surprised resident Ruben Sandoval.

“Especially the kids -  I don’t know where they are coming from,” he said laughing.

“It’s bringing us all together. Everybody is usually just doing their own thing,” whereas at the block party, everybody gets to know their neighbors including the “new people” who just moved into the area, added Michelle Westfall, Sandoval’s neighbor who was one of those who took part in the chili cook-off contest which marked the theme of the evening.

Wendy Liberty, owner of the 165-unit mobile home park, said they awarded four grand prizes to the winners.
“The tenants were the judges and the cooks. This is an event by the tenants for the tenants,” Liberty said.

The young ones were not left out in the celebration. Prizes were also awarded to the winners in the sunflower seed-spitting contest and two-legged races, among others.

At the neighborhood party hosted annually by J. “Chaka” Santos and his wife Roseann, the crowd also appeared even larger than that of previous years. Residents across the street from Santos also had their barbecue grilles out with neighbors, young and old, sitting on lawn chairs and on the cool grass eating freshly barbecued hotdogs and pork ribs, among others, and chatting at the same time.

The Santos block party featured a few highlights not seen in previous years. Before everyone started eating, the neighbors and visitors gathered were led in not one but two prayers before meals. The first one was led by Pastor Charles Roots of Ripon Free Methodist Church who was at the event as a special guest of Santos. Both have been friends since their days in the Marine Corps. The second prayer was led by Father Francisco Naranjo, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church on Cambridge Drive which also hosted one of the dozen block parties Tuesday evening.

Later in the evening, Max Vargas from the office of Assemblymember Cathleen Galgiani presented Santos and his wife with a certificate of appreciation for their work in the community including hosting the annual block party at their home on Long Barn in the Woodfield Estates.

The other highlight of the evening was the surprise Roseann Santos “Just Because” Award presented to Bennie and Joyce Gatto in recognition of the couple’s countless contributions to the community for more than half a century.
There were actually two former mayors present at the Santos block party – Gatto and four-time Lathrop mayor Steve McKee.

Other block parties for the evening were held at City Hall, at the new church on Seventh Street next to the Police Services office, Living Word Christian Center, at Mingo Way hosted by Tony and Cindy Martin, Sharpe Army Depot, the Dog Park at Mossdale Landing hosted by Brian Wilson and company, at Garr Court hosted by Lou Davis and company, Garry Oak hosted by Jessica and Graham McCoy, and at Lottie and Patricia streets hosted by Sheri Candell and company.