MARIETTA - Hundreds of soaking wet children, many hauling recently won prizes, mixed and mingled with officers from the Marietta Police Department at the Marietta Aquatic Center Wednesday morning during the annual Police Pool Party.
The event has been sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police Pioneer City Lodge 12 since the 1930s, said Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite.
"The goal is to provide positive interactions between community children and ourselves," said Waite.
Photo by Jasmine Rogers
Marietta Police Department K-9 Diego relaxes in the grass as 6-year-old Mia Knowlton, left, pets him during the Police Pool Party at the Marietta Aquatic Center Wednesday morning.
Many of the children in attendance do not have a lot of opportunity to interact with law enforcement, he said.
Nathaniel Martin, 11, was one of many children to meet some of the officers Wednesday. The policemen were "pretty cool", said Martin, but admitted that his favorite part of the picnic was the three inflatable toys set up in a field near the pool.
"I like the bouncy houses and that race thing has been fun," said Martin, referring to an inflatable obstacle course.
Marietta resident Amanda Stalford, 30, said she has been coming to the police picnics since she was a little girl, and this year brought her sons: 10-year-old twins Hunter and Kyle Davis and 8-year-old Landen Guiler.
"It was behind the fairgrounds and it was a completely different atmosphere then," recalled Stalford.
Previously the party had consisted of giant picnic held at the Washington County Fairgrounds. This is the fifth year of having the party at the aquatic center.
The police started the party by giving a pep talk about respect and good behavior.
Basically, "Be good and don't cuss," explained 10-year-old Chaden Bruce.
As children mingled with department employees, two officers quickly emerged as the crowd favorites.
"I like the dogs. Sometimes they tackle people," said 7-year-old Noah Lagasse of Marietta.
Diego and Ajax, the department's drug-sniffing German Shepherds, were not tackling any criminals Wednesday. Rather they relaxed in the grass as children flocked to pet them.
Officers handed out hundreds of prizes at the event. Children ages 5 to 11 were eligible for a raffle ticket that would enter them into the prize drawing.
Like the pool party itself, many of the prizes revolved around the goal of keeping youth active.
Among the prizes were pogo sticks, yard games and more than two dozen bicycles.
"Getting to see the smiles on the kids' faces when they win a prize is always the most fun part of these parties," said Waite.
Carder McKitrick, 7, who was attending the pool party for the first time, was one of the first to win a bicycle.
"This is awesome," he exclaimed, seated on his new bike while waiting to get fitted with one of the bike helmets provided by the Marietta City Health Department.
The Marietta Police Department handed out 800 raffle tickets in the week leading up to the pool party and many parents and siblings also attended the event.