With renovations taking place at Harris Field, the longtime home for Harmony Day, this year’s festivities will take place on Tuesday, July 29, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., at Van Cortlandt Park’s Stadium, located along Broadway and 242nd Street.
But while the venue has changed, the idea behind the festivities remains the same.
“It’s all about getting the kids to interact with the police department,” said 49th Precinct Police Officer Chris Traumer, who attended last year’s event and plans to do so again next week. “Kids get to play sports with officers and it allows children to see the police in a totally different light.”
Frank Fitts, the 45th Precinct Community Council president, has helped run the annual Harmony Day Picnic and believes that through events like the popular Dunk-A-Cop Tank, children see that police officers are just like everyone else and would be more willing to talk with uniformed personnel in the future.
“And for the police, more specifically, the newer officers, they learn more about the residents and they neighborhoods they serve,” Fitts said. “In the future, this leads to a sharing of information that helps make communities safer.”
That was the idea behind the Harmony Day Picnic when Reverend Hardy Smallwood first organized the event in Brooklyn. Its success led to the expansion of the event into outer borough with the Bronx inviting a segment of its borough camp groups to attend, as part of their special activities.
Four years ago, police expanded the picnic, creating what essentially became a National Night Out Against Crime for children, as police encouraged everyone from camp groups to religious organizations to come out and enjoy the day.
Two years ago, the event was expanded even further, moving beyond youth groups to include all children from throughout the borough. Almost 6,000 children took part last year, enjoying, in addition to sports and the dunk tank, arts and crafts, face painting, music, raffles, prizes, giveaways, popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, and informational venues featuring various police programs, including the Explorers, and more.
“A lot of these kids who come to Harmony Day realize its value, end up becoming camp counselors and then bring children out for the picnic the following year,” said Traumer. “If we can reach any child like that, then the event is a success.”
Audrey Henry, of the NYC Housing Authority Playstreet at Findlay Avenue takes the neighborhood children to the Harmony Day Picnic each year.
“Our kids need to know they can trust cops in their neighborhood,” she said. “Events like this develop that trust.”
For more information, call (718) 299-4503. Any organization, business or community leader looking to make a donation to ensure the event’s future, call Fitts at (718) 885-0963.