Gonzales— Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office mechanic Dennis Melancon spent eight months restoring a 1948 Willys Jeep.

That green vehicle, which featured a large white star on the hood, was a popular stop on April 4 for children and adults at the sheriff’s National Night Out event.

Melancon said Sheriff Jeff Wiley insisted that the vehicle be “restored with original parts and that’s what we did.”

“It was a fun project,” Melancon said.

Some of the work was done by inmates taking part in a mechanics class at the Public Safety Center, which houses the sheriff’s mechanic shop.

Major Lee Anderson, who coordinated the event with the help of Sgt. Joey Meyers, said the National Night Out — America’s Night Out Against Crime gives the Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies a chance to meet residents and explain the tools they use each day.

One of those new tools on display was a 5-ton military surplus transport vehicle the Sheriff’s Office recently acquired, Anderson said.

“It’s going to be a great asset when we have a flood or need to clear roads,” Anderson said.

Parked near the transport truck were boats brought by Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, and Sorrento police cars.

“We have a little bit of everything,” he said.

Ascension Fire Protection District No. 1 had fire and rescue units displaying flashing red lights.

Those lights attracted Marvin Reed and his three children to the event.

“They saw the flashing red lights as we drove on Airline and we had to stop,” Reed said.

Reed’s children, ages 4, 6 and 7, picked up pamphlets with safety tips and a few stickers and pencils from the various agencies.

The Sheriff’s Office served a large pot of jambalaya and cookies.

“It’s all about promoting community policing and talking to the people and letting them see our physical assets,” Wiley said.

Anderson said the children are drawn to the big trucks and flashing red lights, but enjoy talking to officers in a “friendly setting.”

The first National Night Out — America’s Night Out Against Crime event was held in 1984 as an effort to promote involvement in crime prevention activities, police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie and to send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back, according to the National Night Out website.

Today, more than 37 million people from 15,000 communities in 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide take part in the event.

National Night Out’s community event is usually held on the first Tuesday in August.

The high temperatures on the last event held in 2011 caused Wiley to change the date to what he thought would be a warm springtime evening.

“We were sweating at the last one with temperatures over 100 degrees, and today we’re cold and the weather is yucky,” Wiley said.

Despite the inclement weather, more than 200 people attended the event.