At 6 p.m. Tuesday, about 100 people paused to watch the Life Net helicopter descend to the ground.
Once the blades stopped, a few families cautiously walked over.
The pilots jumped out and let the kids take a look inside.
For the third National Night Out in Gainesville, fire and safety services across the county showed up at Memorial Park Funeral Homes’ North Riverside Chapel to build relationships with the community.
"People who see us with these helmets on think we’re astronauts or from NASCAR," Joe Pardue, the helicopter’s senior flight paramedic, said to Boone Adams, 6, as he put the flight gear on his head. "How high do you think we can go? It’s like touching the clouds."
As the event progressed through the evening, more families showed up and streamed through an aisle of tables where law enforcement officials passed out coloring books, stickers and school supplies for kids and safety brochures for parents. Local fire services passed out plastic red helmets donned by both children and laughing members of Smoky Springs Retirement.
The event, in its 26th year across the nation, was founded with the idea of communities coming out in force against crime.
"I want my kids to see what it takes to keep the community safe," said Amanda Anderson. Her sons, Myles and Nicholas, climbed into the Hall County Fire Services ambulance for a demo and into the back of the Georgia State Patrol helicopter. "They always wondered what it looks like inside, and now they can see."
Many walked around the parking lot to look at the helicopters, ambulances, a Hall County fire truck, dive team vehicle and SWAT team truck.
"We let people walk by and take a look, see where their tax money is going," said 1st Lt. Joe Carter, commander of the SWAT team. "Some people say, ‘Oh, I didn’t even know we had this in the county.’"
Others took a break from the heat by grabbing a bottle of water and a snow cone and heading inside for seminars about safety and neighborhood watch programs.
"I’ve been to safety seminars before, and I wanted to come again. I just admire people for being so committed to our community," said Betty Weathers, who sat inside for the "911 Education" seminar given by the Hall County 911 Center. She joked that the helicopter and ambulance demos were fascinating for more than just kids. "I wanted to look at the helicopter, too. They teased me and said they were giving rides, but I said I didn’t need to do that."