End of summer means one thing in my Newburyport neighborhood – the annual Payson Street Block Party. A tradition for the last seven years, the block party is a time for neighbors to get together, eat, play, and have fun.
My kids talk about and look forward to the block party all year long. The event usually starts in the late afternoon when we shut down the street to traffic, thanks to City Councilor Barry Connell, who happens to live right here. Grills get rolled out from people’s yards, and tables are set up. Everyone brings a dish to share and drinks in a cooler. And the festivities begin, often lasting way into the night.
For my kids, the highlights of the party are the bouncy house on our next-store neighbor’s lawn, the candy-filled piñata that raises up high for the big kids and down low for the little kids, and the outdoor movie projected onto a sheet. One hot year the sprinkler was a bit hit. They also like the freedom of not worrying about speeding cars, time to explore friends’ yards, and running around with just their socks on. (Said socks end up filthy and with holes, and get thrown away!)
The adults love schmoozing and drinking, and schmoozing and drinking. Another awesome part of the night: Newburyport firefighter and guitarist Chris Richard lives on our street, and he either brings the fire truck down for all of the kids to touch and sit in, or treats the neighbors to his fine music. We are a lucky bunch.
Many of Newburyport’s other cozy streets host annual block parties, and if yours doesn’t, consider starting one. Ours is very simple because everyone is responsible for providing their own food and drink, and our lovely British neighbors generously rent the bouncy house for the children. The rest of the fun organically happens. The hardest part for us is setting the date, because no one wants to miss out on the fun. An email list and fliers help get the word out.
Friends all over town report summer and early fall block parties, with fun activities such as live music, dunk tanks, kiddie pools, ice cream sundae bars, cotton candy machines, and face painting. Some streets ask for a specific donation from each family, while others are a pay-what-you-can endeavor. Do whatever works for your neighborhood – the important part is spending some quality time in the Newburyport sun with those people we wave to in passing or over snow banks – our neighbors.
Jill Oestreicher Gross (email@example.com) likes to plan everything from block parties to baby showers to sunset cruises.