Updated: September 27, 2012 10:59AM
Farmers don’t have block parties. Garage sales aren’t an option either, and trick-or-treating can be a real challenge.
I grew up in a rural environment, yet I’m raising my children in an urban setting. It’s been an adjustment. But there are certainly things that I can appreciate and a good party is one of them. It was with that in mind that I coordinated the 114th Street block party last weekend.
This is my second year organizing the summertime party, which closes down our tree-lined street to through traffic. Last year, I relied on suggestions from neighbors and locals when coordinating the party.
The previous party was a resounding success. So, I simply changed the date and reprinted the itinerary this year.
What struck me most about the block party was how much my 6- and 4-year-old sons anticipated the event. It was an excitement akin to Christmas Eve. Bubba and Peter insisted on being the first to ride their bikes on the street that morning.
My sons helped me block off our stretch of pavement with garbage cans and caution tape promptly at 9 a.m. A breakfast bar of coffee, doughnuts and juice was offered for early attendees. It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather.
By 10:30, organized activities began. The first event was a bike parade. All the kids on our block (fifth grade and under) decorated their bikes, tricycles and scooters. This ate up nearly a half-hour. Then, they lined up on one side of the street and paraded to the other end. Proud parents snapped pictures.
The scavenger hunt began shortly thereafter. Kids split into four groups evenly divided by age. The scavengers sought items including a sprig of mint from a neighbor’s garden and the name of the ever-barking dog at the end of the block.
We arranged for a taco truck to show up at lunch. Everyone ate together. Several adults (myself included) saw the all-you-can-eat taco lunch as a personal challenge. Our record stands at eight tacos consumed in under an hour.
The remainder of the afternoon included a few more games, such as musical chairs, water balloon toss, street hockey and volleyball.
Now I’m not a professional party planner, and the games we played were hardly unique. But to see the look on the kids’ faces while playing musical chairs and tossing water balloons, you’d have thought we were at Disney World.
Everyone gathered again for dinner. We all barbecued and shared side dishes. It was an opportunity for adults to have conversations with folks they wave at almost every day and yet might not know that well.
A couple without children once told me that they purposely went out of town on the weekend of their block party. Without kids, I can see how a block party loses some of its appeal. But avoiding it seems rather odd. Then again, maybe they live on a block full of annoying people.
I can say with great certainty that our block party was awesome. At 9 p.m., Peter crawled into my lap. He was dirty, sweaty and exhausted. He fell asleep while we shared a lawn chair.
The next morning, the boys woke up and rehashed all their favorite parts of the previous day. They’re already asking about the block party next year.
My sons may never know what it’s like to bale hay or saddle a horse. Instead, they’ll have their own memories. I’m fairly certain at least one of those memories will be of the block party.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad. He can be reached at email@example.com