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Lathrop residents gather at block parties
Christian Ray, Jaimare Wayne, and Percy Hall of the Lathrop Steelers Mighty Mights take a brief time-out from enjoying their hot dogs at the National Night Out block party hosted by J. Chaka Santos to smile at the camera. The friends came to the block party with their parents’ right after their practice session. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
LATHROP – Tye Peyton is the proverbial new kid on the block where he lives in Lathrop.

The Bay Area transplant is actually not a kid anymore but a recently retired firefighter from Oakland. Being new in town, he decided to check things out and meet some new friends at the National Night Out celebration at City Hall.

“I just moved to Lathrop. I heard about this (block party) when I visited the (Lathrop) fire station and everybody there said they read about it in the paper,” said Peyton who retired just last December after 29 years as a firefighter.

So far, he finds Lathrop as “a nice, quiet community. Everybody seems to be friendly. Lathrop is definitely different from Oakland,” said Peyton as he picked up a voter registration form in the information booth staffed by Lathrop city clerk Mitzi Ortiz.

He said he is entertaining the idea of running for one of the vacant seats on the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District board of directors, but was told that to do so he needs to be a registered voter in the county.

Other attractions at the block party in the parking lot at City Hall included cotton candy and popcorn courtesy of the Lathrop Seniors, hot dogs and ice-cold drinks from the Lathrop Firefighters Local Union – the hot dogs were barbecued on site in the firefighters’ custom-made and state-of-the-art mobile barbecue grill they named Flashover – and face painting for the young ones and the young at heart.

At the Camino Real Mobile Home Park clubhouse, one of about a dozen residential areas that threw a party to get rid of crime in their neighborhoods, scores of residents and friends enjoyed food, fun, games, and music. The party mood went on through the evening.

The party hosted every year by businessman J. “Chaka” Santos in the Woodfield Estates did not disappoint. It was well attended as usual by dozens of guests that included city officials, Lathrop Police with their patrol cars, the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District personnel with their impressive fire engine that never fails to impress the young and the old alike, and several members of the Lathrop Steelers’ Mighty Mights and Jr. Pewee teams.  Along with the young athletes in their bright yellow uniforms came their parents whose reason for being there was not just to mingle with old and new friends but to honor Santos, the man who is a major supporter of many youth athletics including the Lathrop Steelers.

“We enjoy it,” mom Mone Gardere said of the party in front of Santos’ home and driveway, “but also we came just because of his sponsoring and supporting the Lathrop Steelers. He supports us so we support him.”

National Night Out, which is now in its 27th year, is a night for America to stand together in promoting awareness, safety, and neighborhood unity in the fight against crime and drug activity in residential areas.