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Manteca parties to join forces to fight crime
Manteca K-9 Police Officer Mike Kelly and his canine partner Rusty, a Labrador Retriever, are surrounded by some of the children at the Antigua Park neighborhood block party Tuesday night. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Tuesday’s National Night Out celebration was a first for many Manteca residents.

For the families around Antigua Park in front of Veritas School, this was their first foray into the annual anti-crime neighborhood block party. Amy Glass, Hope Johnson, and Marisela Alaniz who spearheaded the neighbors’ first ever National Night Out event were all smiles throughout the evening, declaring it an overwhelming success.

Scores of neighbors gathered around the barbeque pits and picnic benches in the children’s playground and picnic area of the park where all shared the al fresco potluck dinner. While some of the children spent an energetic time in the park’s jungle gym, other  kids enjoyed the bounce house. Horse rides for the older set, and pony rides for the young ones, were also open to anybody throughout the evening. The horses were from Kristina Alexander’s All Star Training of Manteca. The horse riding was donated by Amy Glass who made the arrangements with Alexander.

Glass said several businesses at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley just around the corner also generously contributed to the success of their block party by donating prizes that were given away to the winners of the evening games such as the three-legged race and water balloon toss. Among those who made donations were Crush Yogurt, the movie theater which donated six free movies and popcorn, Matsu Sushi Japanese Bistro which donated a $20 gift certificate, Fabulous Nails and Spa which donated manicure and pedicure, and a free haircut courtesy of Andrea from Mimosa.

One of the most popular visitors during the evening for both young ones and young once was Manteca Police Officer Mike Kelly’s friendly K-9 Rusty, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, who appeared to greet every child with a smile.

“It turned out wonderful, very nice. We got to know our neighbors, plus all these delicious food!” a smiling Alaniz said of the block party.

Next step after this successful neighborhood block party is the formation of a Neighborhood Watch. In addition to meeting new friends and getting to know their other neighbors, the three women began the initial steps of setting up a neighborhood newsletter.

For the residents at Raymus Village in northeast Manteca, the National Night Out party at the Raymus Village Park was also a first in their neighborhood. It was one of more than a dozen block-party sites organized by the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Office at various unincorporated sites throughout the county. The other site located near Manteca was on South Airport Way.

Sarah Meyers, whose family just moved to Raymus Village from Camp Pendleton in Southern California, brought along three of her four children. Her husband, Joseph, who served three tours in Iraq and is currently serving at the former Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop, was on an errand with their oldest child, Meyers explained.

She said this was the first National Night Out block party her family has ever attended.

“I like the idea. I don’t know most of my neighbors so this is an opportunity to meet the neighbors,” she said.

The potluck party at Raymus Village even had a guest singer, Debbie Smith of Manteca, sing the National Anthem to officially mark the start of the evening celebration.

As usual, the National Night Out gathering at the Charlie and Bobette Giles Park next to the Boys and Girls Club in Manteca was a festive one with games, a bounce house, food, drinks, horse rides and music on tap. But while this has been an annual event at the park for many years, it was a first for a number of families who were there Thursday evening.

Christina and Paul Rodriguez have been living in Manteca for the last four years but this is the first time they have ever attended the event at the Boys and Girls Club.

“This is the first time we’ve heard about it,” was Christina’s explanation.

The couple attended the block party with their three children ages 2, 5 and 9.

Barbara Bocanegra, who was also attending the event for the first time, brought along her twin 2-year-old grandsons, Jonathan and Julian Constance to Giles Park. She said she remembered reading about the event in the Manteca Bulletin while babysitting her grandchildren, “so I said, c’mon, let’s go and see the horses and play in the bounce house. It’s something for them to do; they love to be outside.”

The children also enjoyed meeting the fire mascot Sparky, as well as the food and drinks donated by Target and distributed by Target employees who were among the volunteers at the event.