M. Terry / SFVS

“National Night Out” remains a popular family event in the City of San Fernando. And one of the reasons is the ability to attract top Latino stars to appear.

Noted actor and comedian Emilio Rivera was the co-Host of Ceremonies of the event on Tuesday, Aug. 7, and he proved to be a popular choice with residents, fans and visitors all wanting a selfie or a hug. 

Rivera, a native of San Antonio, TX, grew up in Los Angeles and is best known for his roles in television series like “Renegade,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “On My Block” and the upcoming “Mayans M.C.”, as well as films such as “High Crimes,” “Traffic,” and “Spiderman 3.”

Like his good friend and Northeast Valley resident Danny Trejo who appeared here last year — “we took over ‘bad guy’ roles because we were actual bad guys in the past” — Rivera told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol he was now eager to promote a better relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.  

“Most of my life I was running from the cops. And here I am supporting them,” said Rivera, who spoke of overcoming a hard life that included drug use — in particular heroin, crack and PCP. He happily reports to having been “clean and sober” the last 28 years.

“As you get older, you start seeing things differently. [Police] can get a bad rap for different things that we all see on the internet. But the internet can blow things out of proportion,” he said. “If you listen to what they have to say…it can go okay. I was ‘that guy’ who didn’t listen, the ‘loudmouth’ and I got beat up in the old days. And there were no cameras in those days, know what I’m saying?

“But when I think about it now, I was an [expletive]. The more I cooperated, the more things got better for me. And it’s real, because I lived it.”

Working with a Latino cast and crew for the “Mayan M.C.” project also gives Rivera hope that more genuine opportunities are coming for minorities in front of and behind the cameras in Hollywood.

“When [the animated film] ‘Coco’ won an Oscar, ‘Black Panther’ is the most seen Marvel picture ever, and (director) Guillermo Del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) wins an Oscar, it shows you that color sells,” he said. “We’re telling our stories now. And whether they’re good or bad, we’re working. I’ve been in this business 25 years now, and I’ve never seen it as good as this. We’re here, and we cannot be denied.”

Rivera was joined onstage by radio personality David Bugenske from GoCountry 105 FM’s “Graham in the Mornings” show. Bugenske was making his third consecutive appearance as a co-host in San Fernando. 

Event officials at the community gathering inside the Civic Center parking lot at the corner of Maclay Avenue and First Street said the attendance “went past 1,400,” slightly edging the 2017 attendance figures and marking the fourth consecutive year attendance had gone up.

The current heat wave did not discourage people from walking around and viewing various local and county information booths, meeting and chatting with police officers from San Fernando and Los Angeles city school departments, gulping down free hot dogs, chips, drinks and snow-cones, and swaying to the music from bands that included the Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando. Children eagerly expended their energies inside castle jumpers, got their faces and arms painted, and cautiously petted police K-9 dogs.

San Fernando resident Michael Corona, joined by girlfriend Cecilia and son Nikolas, said he couldn’t attend the event last year and was happy to make it this time.

“It’s great to see the community get together and show support for local law enforcement,” Corona said. “That’s a good thing.”

Ciara Cavanaugh, a Valley area teacher who lives in Valencia, said she was also a return visitor.

“It’s a really fun event and it’s grown — which is awesome to see,” she said. “I came two years ago, and it’s much bigger. I love the growth. It’s nice to see the support.”

Tuesday was the 35th “Night Out” event for residents, families and neighborhood-watch groups  in communities throughout the Valley, Southland, state and nation to mingle and connect with area law enforcement personnel.

It began in 1984 as an idea to promote crime and drug prevention. It has evolved into block parties, festivals, cookouts and other communal exchanges.

The 1984 National Night Out involved 2.5 million neighbors across 400 communities in 23 states. Fast forward to today, and 38 million neighbors in 16 thousand communities across the nation take part, according to the National Night Out website.

“It’s always stunning to see so many people come out and be part of this event,” San Fernando Police officer and event coordinator Sgt. Irwin Rosenberg said. “For folks to come out and support us the way they do hopefully shows we’re doing the kinda job we should be doing to support the community. They always stand behind us….this event is not about us, it’s about the community.”