Bringing together a group of neighbors, on the street where they live, should be easy to do. But when schedules are busy and families are stretched for time, it takes some organization to reach out to neighbors and plan a day and time to relax and reconnect.“It’s how I grew up – we all came out at night and chatted,” said Amelie Schoel, a mother of two elementary school-aged children, who lives with her family in Brookhaven. “But now, with our schedules, it doesn’t happen often.“Today’s world with so much technology and busy schedules leaves very little time to step out of cars, our homes, and from behind their computers to just to commune together,” she said. “Our neighborhood parties are a time for us to unplug and talk to one another. It’s freeing in a way – the ultimate is being able to stand in the middle of the street.”When David Julian, Schoel’s neighbor, started organizing parties on his street in Brookhaven several years ago, it was for neighbors to meet each other.“When we moved here in 2005 it was a brand-new subdivision,” said Julian. “It was a chance for neighbors to get together and socialize. We ended up meeting different people whose faces you recognize, but don’t know their names or which house they live in. You start talking about your kids, what grades and schools they’re in, landscaping, and jobs.”The block parties continued, held annually in early September, because that’s a time that families are back from summer vacations and not yet so involved in the school-year schedules, he said. Neighbors bring grills and set up tables, and families are asked to bring food to share (salads, side dishes for odd-numbered houses or desserts for even-numbered houses). It used to include live music but instead of collecting money for music, he “shifted” to iPod mode.“I gather a playlist from my songs and we listen to my music for five hours,” said Julian. “We start about 4 p.m. and go till around 9. It’s really an organic thing.” “We try to survey neighbors to find out what is a good date and then we schedule it, first with a save-the-date email and hard-copy flyer delivered house-to-house,” said Julian, who adds it to the community message board, to invite “anyone who wants to come.” The party is on his block, where it ended up “by default, because it’s the flattest part of a main street.”One important part of the Brookhaven annual block party is getting the street blocked from traffic.Julian said Ron Bistofia takes care of the permitting process with the Union County Sheriff’s Office, which includes contacting all emergency groups, such as EMS and fire. The group then posts signs on the neighborhood streets to warn people in advance of the detour, and has special wooden barricades that they made to block off the street. “It’s all about the kids, too,” said Julian, who said about 100 people attend the annual event. “This is the one day kids can ride their bikes, scooters, and skateboards on the street, and they love it and look forward to it.”Block parties take different forms, based on the interests of the neighbors and organizers. Linda Grant organizes block parties throughout the year for her cul-de-sac neighbors in Providence Hills. One of their favorites is on Halloween, where they block off the entrance to the street. “Halloween is usually a little cool, so we have a fire pit going,” said Grant. “We start out with a full dinner in our driveways – chili and really good food – before the kids go out trick-or-treating. The parents with younger kids take their kids out and the parents with no kids stay and hand out treat bags, put together by all our neighbors.”She organizes Christmas, Super Bowl and Easter parties that often include out-of-town family members. “Sometimes it’s on my deck and just BYOM (bring your own meat), while others include Easter egg hunts and our own Annual Amazing Race competitions – with prizes,” said Grant.Whenever the reason, the goals for block parties are the same, said Schoel, who said the parties are easy to plan and host.“It’s a chance to learn about events in people’s lives, the struggles and the good times,” Schoel said. “It forces us out of our shells; it’s a time for people to connect.”
Friday, Sep. 20, 2013
Charlotte neighborhood block party: Keep it simple
Carol Gifford is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Have a story idea for Carol? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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