Niceville Celebrates First Responders with Summer Kick-Off Event

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By Doug Stauffer

The NICE in the NICEville community again shone brightly to honor and celebrate its first responders at the annual First Responders Summer Kick-Off event held at the Mullet Festival Grounds. This new tradition, now technically in its second year, has grown significantly and serves as a testament to the strong bond between the community and its first responders, a bond continually nurtured and strengthened by the residents’ active participation.

First Responders Day in NicevilleThe highlight of the summer kick-off was the return of the much-anticipated water balloon battle inaugurated at the “Battle at Lincoln Park” in June 2022, when a group of local children challenged the police. What started as a small event has since become a celebration staple, drawing participants of all ages to engage in friendly competition with the Niceville Fire and Police Departments.

This year’s event featured an array of attractions, including bounce houses, water slides, food trucks, a dunk tank, and more. Attendees eagerly watched as enthusiastic participants dunked City Manager David Deitch, Police Captain Michael Whitfield, and other officers. The most hazardous spot for those wishing to stay dry was undoubtedly near the police officers, prime targets for water guns and balloon attacks.

The origins of this beloved tradition trace back to an incident involving Officer Bronson, who chose to support a group of pre-teen children selling lemonade without a license. Instead of issuing citations, Bronson handed them a $100 bill, an act of generosity that quickly went viral on social media. Inspired by this gesture, the children challenged the police to a water balloon fight, leading to the first “Battle of Lincoln Park.” The event saw the Chief and ten officers face off against the “lemonade kids” and other park visitors in a spirited and memorable clash.

In addition to the summer kick-off, Niceville has recently hosted several other community events. On April 20th, residents enjoyed Big Truck Day, featuring vehicles and equipment from Eglin Air Force Base EOD, Waste Management, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Niceville Police Department, Niceville Fire Department, and Niceville Public Works.

Another notable event was the Mock DUI Demonstration at Niceville High School on April 12th. This impactful demonstration, organized ahead of prom night, involved theatre students reenacting a crash scenario, followed by field sobriety tests and an “arrest.” This event aimed to educate juniors and seniors on the dangers of drunk driving and promote safe prom activities.

On May 3rd, the impactful “Growing Community Relations” initiative saw volunteers from the Niceville Police Department, led by Lt. Kearnes, dedicating their morning to assisting a local family with their yard work. The City of Niceville Public Works team played a crucial role by providing equipment and additional support to clear debris, a gesture greatly appreciated by the community. Imagine the difference this kind of kindness would make if it spread throughout the community.

The Niceville first responders’ commitment to community engagement extends beyond these events. From helping stranded motorists to celebrating birthdays with drive-bys, the Niceville Police and Fire Departments continually find innovative ways to connect with and support their community.

As the summer unfolds, Niceville looks forward to more opportunities to celebrate and appreciate the dedication of its first responders. These events provide fun and entertainment and reinforce the strong sense of community that defines Niceville. Let’s all do our part to keep the NICE in NICEville.

For more information and to relive the excitement of the Battle at Lincoln Park, search “The Battle of Lincoln Park” on YouTube.