About five years ago a group of near-strangers in my neighbourhood did something unusual. They blocked off a road, hauled out a barbecue, inflated a bouncy castle, and spent the next six hours together eating, greeting, and telling stories.
Five years ago the block party culture on my street began. I remember going door-to-door inviting the neighbours from about 70 homes, welcoming them to come out and join us. In those early years as I would hand out invitations, most people would crack their door open two inches and suspiciously wonder what I was selling.
Skip forward and today and our street is no longer a collection of strangers, but neighbours who mostly know each other. When block party invitations go out, they are not met with skepticism, but enthusiasm. Planning is a breeze as dozens of people now pitch in, preparing music, food, games, and even more food. Some even ask if we could hold two block parties instead of one.
Block parties have been a growing part of Chestermere’s culture with 35 block parties last year, gathering around 3000 residents and as many as 800 kids. The City of Chestermere, along with several other community partners, have been a champion of this summer activity and has worked hard every year to make hosting a block party more accessible to neighbourhood groups.
Craig Macleod with the City of Chestermere says that recent surveys indicate that block parties have helped residents get to know their street community and neighbours. Macleod says, “Results show that residents felt more connected to their neighbours, they felt more of a sense of belonging to their neighbours, and they met other families whom they felt they could ask for help & support.”
We are discovering that there is more going on in a block party than just a BBQ and games. People are finding connections and they are discovering that they are included. Their neighbourhood is not a foreign place, but a welcoming home for those people and families and live nearby. Block parties are a welcome reminder of who we are, and how we can spend our time together.
The City of Chestermere has a website where you can learn how to host your own block party, along with several resources to make it a great experience. You can also find out if a block party is already booked for your area. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything you need. Visit: www.chestermere.ca/585/Block-Parties for all the details.
Whether you are a block party veteran or this is all new to you, anyone can help gather people together to enjoy the warm, long days of summer. It’s never too late to make a plan. May we continue to create a culture that gathers our community together, because the best parties connect neighbours, where there was once only strangers.