|Mike and John hanging out|
|Beans the Hotdog dressed as a hot fudge sundae|
Three years ago, one of the dads on our street (shout-out to Warren Cohen!) decided to organize a block party. Word had it that 10 to 15 years had passed since there had been one on 1st Street in Brooklyn, NY. He got some of us together for a meeting at a local bar, and we brainstormed ideas for activities.
"There's a lot of young children on our block, so maybe we should just have quiet activities."
The more experienced people who had grown up in the neighborhood set me straight: "So we'll have a DJ and a bouncy castle for starters."
I sat back and listened; clearly, they were the pros!
As it got closer to the actual event, more people stepped forward with ideas: a pet parade, bike decorating, temporary tattoos. I volunteered to run a name tag table so people didn't have to be awkward if they didn't know each other's names.
A few days prior to that first block party, signs went up telling people to move their cars off the street.
The night before and the morning of the party, the cars disappeared as if by magic. More magical, still, was the beautiful empty of the street presenting itself to all of us residents to fill it with whatever we wanted to.
The morning of that first party, there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Young people came out of their homes and looked around, then came out to play with each other. Slowly, the adults brought out tables and grills with food to share.
Then the bouncy castle arrived. Bouncing happened, then the castle deflated and was driven away.
There was a pet parade, and one of the pets was a chicken brought over by a guest of one the street residents. There was also a dog with a cape. Some of the children brought out their stuffed animals, and came along for the procession. It looked like something out of an Ezra Jack Keats book.
Then along came the DJ, and the children did tons of group dances - the Electric Slide, the Cha-Cha, a modified version of the Thriller dance.
The day stretched into evening, more food came out, more people kept talking to each other, the children kept playing, and when it was truly dark out, guys came around selling glow-in-the-dark toys that broke within the hour.
I was exhausted, but so happy, the day after that first block party. Having a space - a physical space - and also the span of an entire day and evening for all of us to put aside our other responsibilities to just BE with each other was such a treat, and helped us remember each other during the rest of the year even amidst our busy lives.
Since that first block party, there have been two more. In last year's event, an egg toss was added into the mix. Also: Beans the dachshund arrived at the pet parade dressed in a soft sculpture hot fudge sundae outfit. In this year's festivities, the children created a Wizard of Oz skit which they performed for a bunch of us. People sat on a picnic blanket in the middle of the street until it was time to go to bed. I ran my third year of the name tag-making table, where people could write their name and street number.
I hope that this tradition continues on for many years to come. It is such fun, and a terrific reminder that each block is a community unto itself.
Long live the block par-tay!