The Potential of a Party

Nick Meyer

The neighborhood block party can be a simple yet powerful community-building tool. Check out our story “Block Full of Bluegrass,” about a neighbor-created event with music, games, a food truck, and more in late May on Eau Claire’s Eastside Hill. It became an instant breakout success with hundreds in attendance from the immediate neighborhood and beyond. Many municipalities have programs to help foster these kinds of activities and make things easy, and for good reason. Block parties and similar types of hyper-local events can increase the desirability of neighborhoods and raise home values. They can create collaborations among neighbors on initiatives around beautification, safety, and other improvements. And perhaps most important and long lasting, they simply strengthen the connective tissue between neighbors that has generally been on the decline in recent decades across America. As more focus is put on private backyards instead of front-porch neighborliness, as people retreat to their TV screens and Netflix queues, and as they more often talk to neighbors via Facebook than face-to-face, it becomes tougher to have the impromptu moments between neighbors that help build real communities. That’s why these kinds of gatherings – neighborhood-wide thrift sales, picnics, block parties, and others – are so critical to the health of not just our neighborhoods but to entire cities. They are where connections are made and ideas are formed. Where issues and discussed and solutions discovered. It’s all these important things. But it’s also where one neighbor kid can simply have an ice cream cone with another neighbor kid she’s never met before. And that could become the most important connection of all.