It’s just a parking lot most of the time. One of the few on Main St. and between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. it’s always full. But on the afternoon of Friday, June 23, the cars were gone. A dunk tank sat in their place with a line stretching the asphalt. The mayor chatted in between his grilling duties handing out hot dogs and handshakes while beach balls floated through the air and the sound of city councilors and police officers hitting the water with a sizzle on the 87-degree day carried over music and laughter.
Kickin’ it with Cops is the latest event to shoulder in to Cottage Grove’s packed summer schedule, hosted in the police station’s parking lot and designed to give the community the opportunity to meet its police force.
“It’s about getting the community here with no agenda,” said city councilor Amy Slay, the brains behind the operation. The idea came to her randomly one night after she sat through a budget meeting. “All of it is so heavy and I just needed something positive,” she said. “That was about a month and a half ago and I asked Scott and he said yes.” Cottage Grove Police Chief Scott Shepherd may have said yes to hosting the event but within an hour of its kick-off at 5 p.m., he was shouting “no.”
The chief took the second shift in the dunk tank after city councilor Mike Fleck and within the span of five minutes, he hit the water six times sunglasses and all. With each splash, Shepherd shouted, wiped his eyes and climbed back to the platform allowing children and adults alike to take a shot at sending him back into the water. “It actually feels refreshing,” Fleck joked, standing in the shade beside the dunk tank after his shift, a puddle forming at his feet and vanishing quickly in the heat of the afternoon.
He points out that, while he fell victim to the dunk approximately a dozen times, the line had grown considerably for Shepherd. Twenty-one people stood in line waiting for their three baseballs and the chance to send the chief into the water.
Those who had already dunked the chief or were waiting for the opportunity to do it again wandered between a cotton candy machine, police cars, lights flashing for the kids, and mayor Jeff Gowing’s grill station.
“We really couldn’t do it without the sponsors,” Slay said, her eyes constantly wandering from station to station. One is out of hot dog buns, another needs her attention as well. “The sponsors, they really made this happen.”
Several local businesses chipped in including Safeway, Urban Kitchen, Brad’s Chevy, Weyerhaeuser, Big Stuff BBQ and Stacy’s Covered Bridge Restaurant.