By Dave Rogers

For The Record

It’s full speed ahead for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office 22nd annual Cops N Kids Picnic Friday at Claiborne West Park.

Because of wet grounds after last weekend’s heavy rains, the event has been moved from its usual spot in the park to an area around the large pavilion.

The picnic begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m.

Besides the Sheriff’s Office, other law enforcement agencies expected to participate are the Orange Police Department, Orange County constables, Beaumont Police Department Crimestoppers, Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Southeast Texas Air Rescue and Acadian Air Med plan to have their helicopters, said John Badeaux, sheriff’s deputy.

In addition to a free hotdog lunch and snacks – including cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones and watermelons – the hosts will be offering rides in police cars, rides in wagons pulled by horse, a train ride, super slides and moon walks.

Gator Country will be sending some of its critters and educational staff to introduce them.

“It’s a way to interact with the kids,” Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt said. “It’s a way to get on the level with the kids and have fun with them and give them something to do during the summertime at the daycare.

“And it’s just a way for them to see some of our equipment, to see some of our guys in a different atmosphere.”

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office oversees the local Blue Santa program. It assists the City of Orange with its annual Easter egg hunt, as well as helping with the Special Angel rodeo and the Sheriff’s Posse rodeo.

But the OCSO employees are pouring their hearts into this week’s program.

“We’re excited every year,” Badeaux said. “We have parents that came when they were children and now they’re bringing their children.”

Merritt looks forward to Cops N Kids Picnic every year.

“It’s just very rewarding to see the kids enjoying themselves and that kind of opens that door to where they’re not always afraid of police officers.

“They see that we’re human beings and we get down and play with them and just have a good time.

“I think anyone that comes out, that’s the first thing that they’ll see: how we interact with them. And it’s just a wonderful time.”