Hundreds of people are expected to attend National Night Out 2018 featuring Bill Cooper’s Safe Kids Fair, which will be 4-8 p.m. Tuesday at Harry E. Kelley Park, 121 Riverfront Drive, said Leslie Higgins, director of education for the U.S. Marshals Museum. The all-ages event will include DNA kits, safety tips, free hot dogs and chips, bounce-arounds and more, she said.
“We have over 25 agencies that are signed up to be there, everyone from the Attorney General’s office to Cox, Target, the police and sheriff departments, highway police and more,” Higgins said. “There will be a wide variety of agencies where people can meet and hear officials in their booths.”
Now in its 11th year and being held in conjunction with the Fort Smith First Tuesday program, the fair was designed as a way for parents to help keep their children safe, she said. Those attending will be able to receive DNA kits that were designed by Next Generation Events, Higgins said.
“These kits include palm prints, fingerprints and swab kit for people to take home,” she said.
“And we’ll also have several vehicles for kids to explore at Bill Cooper’s Safe Kids Fair,” Higgins added. “EMS and the fire department will have vehicles, and there will be several police vehicles.”
Last year, the fair was named after the Cpl. Bill Cooper from the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office. Cooper was killed in the line of duty in August 2016 near Greenwood.
“We wanted to name the fair after Bill Cooper because he was such a big supporter of the fair,” Higgins said. “Bill was a really big part of the Safe Kids Fair, and we wanted to honor Bill because of that.”
Higgins said Bill Cooper’s Safe Kids Fair will be a perfect way to add to the existing First Tuesday program, which is sponsored by the Fort Smith Downtown Business Association April through October each year. First Tuesday events will include the Park at West End’s free rides for children 12 and younger, performances by the Community School of the Arts, the River Valley Artisan Market, the Farmer’s Market, pony rides, a health expo, games, shopping and dining, free caricatures, live music, local re-enactment groups, food trucks and more.
Libby Meyer, a board member for the Fort Smith Downtown Association, predicted that many families, couples and individuals will attend the events.
“The First Tuesday program provides an opportunity to show off downtown Fort Smith to the community and visitors and provides a positive fun and family friendly event,” she said. “Our goal is to promote the businesses downtown and to increase support for the local shops and restaurants.”
Higgins said she and others thought it would be beneficial to combine Bill Cooper’s Safe Kids Fair with National Night Out this year. National Night Out has been an event that has encouraged strong relationships between community, law enforcement officials and others in related fields, she said.
“We are expecting about 500 people for the Safe Kids Fair,” Higgins said. “It’s our first year to partner. We knew that the police department did National Night Out, so we decided to combine the two so we could create a bigger, better experience for the community.
“We do this because it’s a way of bringing all of these safety-related agencies together in one place,” she added. “This is an easy way for parents to get information on staying safe and keeping their children safe.”