ST. MICHAELS — This town has been known to have some pretty rockin’ block parties, but the one Police Chief Anthony Smith and the S.M.Y.L.E. group gives to celebrate National Night Out, many agree, is the best of them all.

It was all happening Tuesday evening, Aug. 6. Flags flew atop the St. Michaels Fire Department’s ladder truck, the smell of charcoal-broiled hamburgers drifted for blocks, and good old rock music had folks dancing and singing.

There also were some special presentations and special guests.

Major League Baseball player Harold Baines was honored for being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Baines got a chance to sign autographs, visit with the community and be congratulated.

Trish Payne of the St. Michaels Community Center made a special presentation.

“Every year, the St. Michaels Community Center picks a ‘Heart of the Community Center’ winner,” Payne said. “And this person has to be exemplary in their love of St. Michaels, their service to St. Michaels and absolutely the heart of St. Michaels.”

This year’s recipient, she said, is Chief Anthony Smith.

The chief was surprised and took a minute to go up and get his award.

“They set me up here,” Smith said. “Well, they leave me speechless. I don’t know what to say. Thank you, guys. You know, it’s easy — really really easy — to work for a community like St. Michaels.”

He took the opportunity to talk about what National Night Out is all about.

“We will not be defeated,” he said. “We see all the madness and the hatred and the craziness going on in the world. National Night Out is the sign to defeat that craziness.”

National Night Out is an awareness-raising event that has been held annually since 1984. It’s a way for law enforcement to connect with the community in a block-party atmosphere with fun, food, entertainment and more. It provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

Participants share a fun time together sponsored by law enforcement, then assemble for a lighted procession around town just after the sun goes down. The procession is a symbol of solidarity that citizens can overcome crime in their neighborhoods if they join together.

Smith said the St. Michaels Police Department was partnering with the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland State Police, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the St. Michaels Fire Departmen, and the St. Michaels Community Center to keep the town safe.

Talbot County Department of Emergency Services Director Clay Stamp also gave a speech. He talked about the need to be connected during a weather emergency and praised Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble’s efforts to help stem the opioid crisis with the ongoing Talbot Goes Purple campaign.

“Talbot County is blazing a trail as other counties join in,” Stamp said.

“The third thing I want to say is, we live in very odd times now,” he said, talking about recent violence in unexpected places. “We need as a community, when we see something, we say something. Report it.”

Folks at National Night Out were entertained with several selections by the Bay Hundred Christian Fellowship Choir, accompanied by Carroll Lowery on the accordion.

It was announced that the Maryland Food Bank would be giving more than 500 pounds of food away at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in a special initiative the following day.

Vendors crowded the parking lot in St. Michaels, giving out freebies for the event.

Boy Scouts from St. Michaels Troop 741 made cornbread. Representatives from the Talbot County Free Library gave away books and T-shirts. The Tilghman Area Youth Association gave away water bottles. The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center’s Fishmobile showed up and was open for business.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Rising Tide educational team made badges.

Kids from S.M.Y.L.E. — St. Michaels Youth and Law Enforcement — greeted visitors.

Mark Bailey and Thomas Stanford kept the place hopping with the spinning of good old rock ‘n’ roll.

Prizes for those youngsters completing an obstacle were given out by Rotary members Debbie Collison, Martha Benson and Anastasia Rhodes, among others. Children received free cards for a treat from Justine’s Ice Cream Parlour in town.

A load of free pizzas was donated by Sam’s Pizza & Restaurant on Talbot Street.

Firefighters and volunteers from the St. Michaels Fire Department, Station 40, cooked hot dogs and hamburgers free for the crowd and also gave out chips and water, courtesy of their canteen pantry.

Fire personnel sweating over the grill included Guy Reeser, Keith Powers, Pat Mosner, Frank Hopkins and Lori Ramsey.

“We are in desperate need of volunteers,” said Keith Powers, an EMT and rescue boat captain for St. Michaels. He said the need for more firefighters has reached a critical stage in St. Michaels and especially Oxford.

Station 40 had its ladder truck extended to display the American flag during the event, and several emergency vehicles were open for tours with paramedics serving as tour guides.

For many, the biggest treat of all was free swimming in the Bay Hundred Community Pool. Youngsters crowded the water and ran amongst the pool’s waterspouts, soaking up every minute. When swim time was over, their parents had to peel them away.

After the speeches, everyone was treated to cake. “National Night Out” was represented on five cakes. Another cake, made by the Easton Acme, featured a picture of Harold Baines. Folks lined up for a slice.

As the sun went down, everyone organized for the walk of solidarity around town.

For more information about National Night Out in St. Michaels, visit SMYLE on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter @chrisp_stardem. Email me at cpolk@stardem.com.

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