For the Hastings Police Department National Night Out is more than a free barbecue and fun activities.
Officer Jody Craig says it works well as the drug and crime prevention event it's designed to be because it's a chance for them to have positive contact with kids and families.
"That usually isn't the case, usually people call us because they need us for something and it's usually an emergency of some kind," says Craig. "So when they can interact with us on a more casual basis like this it makes us more approachable when they do need us."
Some communities celebrate National Night Out with neighborhood block parties where police officers stop by, but Hastings officials say hosting a community based event like this year's at Lib's Park has its benefits too.
"You see people that maybe you would never see if you didn't do it this way because you get to know the people on your block, but now you'll get to meet people from across town," says Tom Hastings, President of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. "You'll meet people of all statuses and all ages and all backgrounds."
"There's a limited number of us and there's a lot of public out there, so it's a lot easier to have everybody come to us," says Craig.
But officials say that doesn't mean help - whether it's in the form of law enforcement, first responders, or any of the local agencies that also come to National Night Out - won't be there when called upon.
"I think that's the thing that we really try to stress tonight is to make sure that people understand they can talk to the police or they can talk to the people of authority and they will get the help they need," says Hastings.
The National Association of Town Watch, the organization that sponsors National Night Out, says that last year 15,000 communities and 37 million people took part in the event.