ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Emergency responders and community members across the Commonwealth came together Tuesday evening to celebrate National Night Out, an annual event to introduce locals to their police, fire, and EMS departments.

Roanoke held events in 15 different locations, but one of the biggest celebrations was hosted by the Greater Williamson Road Area Business Association.

Crowds came out in the hot weather to enjoy the food trucks, games, and music. Residents like Becky Kelly say they joined the fun because they think it’s an important event for the community.

“We told them we appreciate their work, told them it was nice to meet them,” said Kelly.

“I especially enjoy seeing woman police officers,” added Kelly’s friend, Sherry Kessel, who says it’s still new for her to see women in law enforcement.

First responders, like Brian Lee with the Roanoke County Police Department, say the opportunity is important for them too. It’s a chance to make real connections in the community in a positive light.

“I love getting out and speaking to people, kind of understanding where everybody comes from…closing that gap,” said Lee. “A lot of times people don’t realize there’s a lot more things that we can do other than just policing.”

Lee is also a recruiter, so he says National Night Out is a great way to show people all the things they can do with Roanoke County Police.

“A lot of people see us as a police and think that all we do is catch the bad guys and write tickets, but there’s a lot of special assignments we have,” he explained. “We have a traffic division; we have animal control, which are CSO officers; we have school resource officers.”