AZTEC — On Tuesday, the police department and city officials will celebrate National Night Out from 5 to 7 p.m. in Minium Park.

The national crime-awareness program, which started in 1984, will offer free barbecued food, live entertainment, carnival rides and a doughnut-eating contest. Participants also will have a chance to make waves in the splash fountain steps from City Hall.

Police Chief Mike Heal, who's been on the force for 16 years, said the best part of the evening is how it brings the community together.

"National Night Out is for us and the community, to make sure that the criminals and bad guys know they're on notice," Heal said on Thursday. "We're going to get to know our neighbors and now the crooks know that they're not welcome in our community. Plus, it's going to be a lot of fun."

The date of the city's celebration was changed this year so as to not conflict with Connie Mack or the County Fair, Heal said.

The police will host a doughnut-eating competition and an obstacle course that simulates what drunkenness can do to person's senses and vision. Kids will be given goggles that distort the wearer's vision and challenged to dribble a soccer ball through a course of safety cones.

"Over 100 different businesses will be on hand to tell about who they are," Heal said. "They'll not sell anything — everything's free — but to showcase themselves and get to know the community. There's also going to be all kinds of activities — a fish pond, rides, sno-cones. It's going to be a carnival atmosphere — to get to know each other."

San Juan Regional Medical Center is donating 30 youth bicycle helmets to match Wal-Mart's donation of 30 bicycles that will be given away in a raffle at the event.

Miss New Mexico USA Kamryn Blackwood, a Farmington native, will be on hand, signing autographs and giving away prizes.

"There will be lots of handouts on bike safety and all different safety (measures) in the community," Heal said. "It's all completely free — there's nothing you have to pay for. It's a chance to get to know each other."

A new addition to the event is an ice bucket challenge, which will soak the heads of city officials to benefit the charity of their choice. Commissioner Sheri Rogers has already challenged City Manager Josh Ray to get dunked.

"I'll be in the donut-eating contest, participating in the ice bucket challenge and enjoying the evening," Ray said in a text message. "I love losing the donut-eating contest, but I would like to win just once. I've been practicing and I have a new plan this year."

Ray said his strategy for doughnut supremacy was a guarded secret, but added that he was most looking forward to seeing people and "hanging out together" in a park on a summer night.

"Turn out from the community is what I like the best," he said. "It's a two-hour, stress-free event full of fun!"



What: National Night Out event

When: 5-7 p.m., Tuesday, July 29

Where: Minium Park, 200 N. Park Ave., located northeast of the Aztec municipal complex. 

Cost: Free

More info: Call Sherry Gurule at 505-334-7620

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.