Friday, June 29, 2001
Concord Street block party: A fun way to build community
How do you build a sense of neighborhood in an area where traffic and distance make it difficult to know who lives next door? Residents of Concord Street answered that question with the "Concord Street Block Party" which took place Sunday, June 10, at the home of Giovanna DiNicola. Eighty-five people attended this first-ever event and enjoyed games, barbecuing and pot-luck. Most of all, they enjoyed just getting to know each other.
According to Holly Salemy, one of the founders, the idea was hatched at a holiday party where several Concord Street residents met each other for the first time. "We got to talking about how no one really knows each other on this street, and how nice it would be to bring everyone together." Salemy, whose family has lived on Concord Street for nine years, admitted she hardly knows her neighbors beyond a radius of a few houses. "There really was no mechanism for meeting your neighbors," adds DiNicola. "Even walking in the neighborhood is impossible given the traffic on Concord Street."
According to DiNicola, the idea persisted, "fueled by this long and miserable winter," and a committee formed which included Salemy, DiNicola, Liz Carpenter, Ann Marie Durlacher and Sally Hayen. "The committee included a mix of people; with kids, without, and one whose kids were grown," observes Salemy. "We wanted an event that would include everybody." Over wine and cheese, the committee drew up a plan which included invitations to all fifty-three households with Concord Street addresses.
The event featured a moon walk for the kids and lawn games which included volleyball, horseshoes, badminton and bocci ball. "But most of the adults were just chatting; they were really interested in getting to know their neighbors," says DiNicola. She adds that her six-year-old daughter "loved it. The kids ride the bus together and had a great time meeting and playing." DiNicola furnished hamburgers and hot dogs, and everyone was asked to bring chairs, blankets, and pot-luck. Says DiNicola, "The food was extraordinary, with many fresh, summery dishes. The salads were just exceptional." (As an example, see the recipe for Swedish Salad supplied by Jace Tilton.)
One of the hits of the party were the name-tags, each of which featured a photo of the attendee's house taken by Dan Durlacher. "It was fun associating people with a house you knew," says Salemy. Another event was the prize for "the most creative way of arriving without an engine," which arose as a way to alleviate parking problems. One neighbor kayaked across the pond, another arrived in a golf cart (but was disqualified because it had an engine), and others arrived by wagons and scooters.
DiNicola was gratified by the turn-out. "I was surprised so many people would come who didn't know me or the other committee members. Everyone was very warm and friendly." Salemy adds, "It was an interesting mix of people with diverse ages and backgrounds." She was interested to learn some Concord Street history from long-time residents who spoke of a one-time "Mafia house" surrounded by attack dogs. "It's fun to be in on the local lore."
"I had no idea before how many interesting and friendly people lived here," says DiNicola. "Now when I'm out, I can wave to a neighbor and know who they are," adds Salemy.
All agreed this was a lot of fun. Salemy expects this to be an annual event and mentions that a family has already volunteered to host next year. "We'd love to do this again. It was such a pleasurable, enjoyable experience," says DiNicola. And she adds, "Maybe the idea could be contagious. Wouldn't it be great if other neighborhoods did this?" Emphasizing how little work was involved, Salemy encourages anyone interested in knowing their neighbors to "find a back yard, make an invitation, and just roll with it."
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito