Moving to Chicago from Northwest Indiana took some adjusting. One of the hardest parts for me has been the proximity of houses. When I went in my childhood backyard wearing pajamas or mismatched socks, no one saw me. But in my Hegewisch neighborhood, the neighbors’ yards and ours are much closer and any sort of privacy is pretty nonexistent. On some cool nights when the windows are open, I could even tell you what they are watching on TV in the next house. Still, it’s getting easier, especially thanks to our now annual block parties, where most of the neighbors come out and socialize.
Prior to moving here, I had never even heard of a block party. When I started dating my husband, he would take me on DJ gigs with him and every summer, we’d make the block party rounds mostly in the Mount Greenwood and Beverly neighborhoods of Chicago, but occasionally in our own Hegewisch neighborhood. I always had fun watching neighbors come together to hang out, eat and dance. Their kids would ride their bikes up and down the street together, forming lifelong friendships.
Some blocks took their parties to the extreme, bringing out cotton candy machines, clowns, bounce houses and even a riding bull. Some had fireworks, visits from Chicago Fire Department fire engines and police mounted units. Others went the more simple route, but no matter what, they were always fun.
Last year, I was excited when our block decided to plan a block party of its own. It turned out great and our son, who was then still a baby, enjoyed sitting outside on the blanket listening to music and watching the grass grow. It was nice to meet the neighbors and it’s fun to have a party that doesn’t require much house cleaning. I also like that we don’t have to pack any bags. Everything we or our son could need is literally a few feet away.
This past Saturday we all hit the street for our block party and it was even more fun that last year.
I’m pretty sure no one loved it more than our toddler and our dog. Those two were out there almost all day, from 10 a.m. until 10:30 p.m., sans naptime.
The little guy bounced on the trampoline, ran his lawnmower up and down the block, played in his kiddie pool, ate a hot dog, tacos and popcorn. He loved dancing in the street and watching the bubbles fly out of the bubble machine. Our dog loved seeing all our friends and family, lapping up water from the kiddie pool, aka the world’s biggest dog bowl, and eating the remnants of all the toddlers’ meals.
I love seeing neighbors meet and greet. It seems that last year’s block party helped a lot of people introduce each other and nowadays when I walk down the block or into my yard, I actually know the people I see. OK I still don’t know all their names, but maybe by our fifth annual block party, I’ll have them down.
If you’d like to plan a block party, check your local government’s website for permit information. In Chicago, permits are issued free through the alderman’s office. Visit www.cityofchicago.org.