Wichitans turn out for Celebrate Safe Communities block parties

Last year, temperatures still hung at 109 degrees when parties began. But Tuesday evening, an autumnal cool clung to the air, as about 300 McAdams neighborhood residents attended a high-energy block party.

James Arbertha – ready for a dance – said the cooler weather helped draw residents to one of the city’s first Celebrate Safe Communities block parties, held in front of the historic Dunbar Theater at Ninth and Cleveland.

“If the weather is right, people will come out of the woodwork to have a party,” Arbertha said.

Now known as Celebrate Safe Communities, Wichita’s National Night Out event moved this year to October after two decades. Although the national event still takes place in August across the country, Wichita police Lt. Doug Nolte said the triple-digit temperatures had some people requesting the event be moved to fall or spring.

The city obliged.

“We know that in August in Kansas it just gets so blistering hot,” Nolte said.

Although the name and date changed, the goal is the same, Nolte said: to unite neighbors with each other and local law enforcement in a community crime prevention effort. Residents organized about 60 gatherings around Wichita in honor of the event, held from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday.

“You couldn’t ask for a nicer day to get people together and have a party,” Nolte said.

By 7:30 p.m. in the McAdams neighborhood, children skipped and hula-hooped on a barricaded stretch of Cleveland, between Ninth and 10th streets. Shellie Dorsey, 26, watched as her niece and nephew played down the block from her home. She attended “to celebrate and support my community,” she said, as cheerleaders danced.

Later, the crowd swayed to a soulful, live performance by local rappers Final Four and music spun by local DJ Ron Dee. As local broker Vesta Florence danced, she waved to the crowd.

“We had a good turnout tonight,” she said. “Look at all these people. I just love it.”