September 9 was the Home Street Block Party, one of those days in the West End where the street gets locked down from traffic and the residents have some fun on the pavement and on the sidewalks.
The Daniel McIntyre/St Matthews Community Association creates a limited number of Block Party grants for residents to organize a get together. So when I got there, there was music blasting out of a speaker, lots of snacks and a couple of BBQ’s cooking. It felt good being part of the party; everyone was handing out food and giving out good vibes.
One of the Home Street organizers was Alex, a gym teacher who had put together the Home Street block party two years ago. Part of organizing was to get 70% of the residents to sign off on shutting down the street for the day, essentially supporting the cause. This was the most difficult thing for him while organizing the party but he and a few fellow volunteers hit the streets, knocking on every door.
Alex provided hula hoops and skipping ropes and it was interesting to see them in use. Stories about the kids these days not playing like they used to were put to bed by these Home Street kids. They picked up a long skipping rope and they hopped in and out until one of the kids got decked, fell down crying and the others picked her up, brushed her off and they continued playing.
There was a line up for the bouncy castle, that predictable play toy at parties these days, but I was happy to see kids having some simple fun. There were kids everywhere because there are tons of families in this area and the parents were proud that their kids were playing so nicely.
Then a local teacher brought a few boxes of childrens books and laid them out; the kids went gaga. There may not have been many titles I recognized but I saw an Alice in Wonderland cover, a Wiggles book but also some Miley Cyrus propaganda.
People were meeting one another and were very comfortable with each other. Many people were describing their exact home address in conversation with me. Not everyone was comfortable, and I suspect some people stayed in their houses or sat on their stoops, watching the party.
City Councilor for Daniel McIntyre, Harvey Smith, came out, still on crutches from an icy sidewalk injury. He was trying to bring up some issues that he was raising in the Council, but most people were excited to talk to him as a neighbor.
“It’s good that everyone gets to know each other,” said Councillor Smith.
“We talk about needing more policemen in this neighbourhood but if we all knew our neighbours, it would be much safer,” he added.
Smith also talked about the grants that the associations provide for these kind of things, and hopes that he will keep getting invitations to the parties he sponsors.
“Sometimes I’m called for money and then don’t even get an invitation,” he said. Smith is a West End resident and deserves to be included, whether as a politician or as an interested citizen.
After the day was done, it was clear that the Home Street Block Party contributes to a better neighbourhood by bringing residents together to build a stronger community.