It was about neighborhoods Tuesday night, and hundreds of residents came out to celebrate and get to know one another.
"It's family oriented out here and friendly. It's not what people think, like you're coming to west Modesto," said Sara Rodriguez, 47, who has volunteered for nearly 10 years at local National Night Out celebrations.
On Tuesday, her daughter, Julie Aldrete, joined her to help with the party at César E. Chávez Park. National Night Out, in its 27th year nationally, is intended to bring neighbors together in a stand against crime.
"Tonight is neighborhood, not 'hood," Rodriguez said.
Jerry Rodgers agreed. The pastor of Calvary Temple Baptist Church on West Avenue South in Turlock, greeted about 200 people at the party he held for the second consecutive year.
"We want to be a part of the neighborhood," Rodgers said. "This is wonderful."
His party included hot dogs and burgers, a bounce house and free groceries for the needy.
City officials, police officers and firefighters roamed among 108 parties in Modesto and 24 in Turlock, as well as in other communities.
Turlock Mayor John Lazar invited people to the Police Department's fifth annual open house, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 900 N. Palm St. Police Chief Gary Hampton and his staff will talk about the department, crime prevention and public safety and offer tours of police headquarters. Planned in conjunction with National Night Out, the day will include activities for children and hot dogs for everybody.
National Night Out, introduced by the National Association of Town Watch in 1984, is designed to bring neighbors together and make it clear to criminals that residents will look out for one another.
Ryan Bird, attending a party on Stratford Way in Modesto, said he sees it as an investment.
"If you put a little more extra into the neighborhood, people will take care of you and vice versa," he said. "Hopefully, people will watch out for each other and make the neighbors better and the neighborhood."
In addition to getting to know the neighbors, National Night Out can serve a higher purpose, said Tenika Saunders. The 17-year-old performed in Tapestry Performing Arts' "Dancin' in the Streets" at Chávez park.
"It brings people closer to God," she said. "It lets the neighborhood know we can change lives."
Bee staff photographers Darryl Bush and Debbie Noda and staff writer Patty Guerra contributed to this report.