Bill and Sylvia Smith were busy trying to find a spot for everything Tuesday night in time for the Newcastle neighborhood’s National Night Out and back-to-school bash.
The Smiths were having to regroup after an afternoon downpour, but neither was letting a little rain dampen their enthusiasm for the annual community event.
Newcastle’s event was one of hundreds happening around town Tuesday night – part of a national crime and drug prevention program started by the National Association of Town Watch – though many in the Midlands were cancelled or rescheduled due to heavy rain and thunderstorms.
“I mean we have all this food,” said Sylvia Smith. “We can’t cancel.”
There was hotdogs, baked beans, coleslaw, fried fish and an extra large “Back to School Bash” sheet cake for the neighborhood children.
It’s the fifth year the Smiths have hosted the northeast Columbia neighborhood’s celebration at their home – an event that in years past could see upwards of a thousand attendees in the community of more than 400 homes.
“It’s like a carnival,” said Bill Smith.
The Smiths said they open their house and yard for the yearly event as way of thanking neighbors who always supported their children’s fundraisers over the years.
“And most everybody brings or contributes something,” said Sylvia Smith.
Outside the Smiths’ home, neighbors huddled under tents trying to wait out the rain while deputies from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department offered fingerprinting from inside the Smiths’ garage. Children ran from booth to booth asking about prizes and school supply giveaways.
Nora Smith and Brenda Jackson who were manning the registration table said the annual neighborhood get-together is also about getting to know neighbors and addressing neighborhood concerns; a petition for more street lighting was making the rounds.
“It’s an older neighborhood so this gives us a chance to meet new neighbors,” said Smith.
Shameka Moore, who had just moved to the neighborhood from another part of Richland County in March, said she was surprised by the turnout.
“I didn’t think there was going to be anyone here,” she said. “But then I saw the big sign and all the people and thought, ‘There is going to be a turnout.’”
Moore had visited the voter registration booth and her four children had received child safety ID cards, complete with fingerprints.
“I’ve never experienced this before – the community coming together to do something for kids,” she said.
Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.