Alberta Avenue resident Maggie Glasgow intends to hold a block party every summer. She helped organize one three years ago and loved it, but last summer she was too busy with work obligations to organize another one.
“A big issue is the time is takes to door knock for signatures to close the street,” said Glasgow.
While a block party that closes the street is great fun, smaller informal social gatherings can be equally valuable. Starting with smaller gatherings can also help generate enough interest and people willing to help with a full block party.
Connecting with neighbours doesn’t have to be complicated. Just create an opportunity for neighbours to stop and visit with each other. Invite neighbours for a campfire and conversation. If you garden, ask neighbours over as you split your perennials or share your harvest. Host games on your front lawn or sidewalk: lawn games, board games, card games.
Last June, Wesley Andreas organized Red Chair Ave to spark conversation between neighbours and introduce people to underutilized parks. Red muskoka chairs were placed around the neighbourhood and hosts invited passerbys to stop and share their thoughts on Canada, Edmonton, and their neighbourhood.
Four of those chairs are now being used as part of the Alberta Avenue Community League’s Neighbour Connect Project.
The league bought a cargo van, filled it with resources and activity kits, hired 12 summer students, and are hitting the streets of Alberta Avenue helping neighbours meet in exciting and engaging ways.
“We want to remove the barriers to connecting,” said Lenn Wheatley, neighbourhood connector for Alberta Avenue Community League. “Often people don’t have the time or resources or knowledge of what to do. Our team can work with residents and reduce these pressures of organizing a block event.”
The team held their first event on May 6: a clean up on the 112 Avenue blocks, followed by food and socializing at The Aviary. On the May long weekend, they held five simple pop-up events involving games, watermelon, freezies, and lemonade.
“We are hoping to do between 35 and 50 block events by the fall,” said Wheatley. “We want to make it easy for neighbours to meet and get to know each other.”
Other resources are available if you don’t live in Alberta Avenue and have access to the Neighbour Connect Team. The City of Edmonton has a how-to guide to organizing block parties. Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch provides block party resources because getting to know your neighbours is one of the best ways to make your neighbourhood safer. A Small Sparks Fund through the Avenue Initiative funds up to $250 for community-building initiatives.
So don’t just think about getting together with your neighbours, find something you can manage and do it. If all you can manage is a friendly “Hello, how are you?”, then start with that.
If you are too shy or nervous to approach neighbours or if you just haven’t found anyone with whom you can connect, check out the annual Rubber Boots & Bow Tie Garden Party on June 23 at Alberta Avenue Community Centre. It’s a neighbourhood-wide block party for adults. Tickets are $15 on Eventbrite. More info at albertaave.org/garden-party.
BLOCK PARTY RESOURCES
How to guide
Small Sparks Fund
Featured Image: Community Connector Felisa Pador (right) and a community member eat watermelon at Norwood Square’s Pop-Up event on Victoria Day weekend. | Noi Kareerat