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Block parties

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Ellis Hargrove, Henry Kuzma and James Rigamer

THE STREET Ellis Hargrove, Henry Kuzma and James Rigamer (from left), along with 30-40 other kids and their parents, gather at Judson Park in West University for a neighborhood block party.

Buzz Baby is a column about life with little ones. Writer Annie McQueen has three children under the age of 4.

There’s a lucky street in the Memorial area with over 50 kids on it, from babies to high schoolers. The kids are always outside playing until the streetlights come on. Every year, they have a block party so neighbors can meet, reconnect and swap stories. The parents set up classic kids’ activities like bobbing for apples and donuts on a string. 

Recently, I talked with some Buzz parents of babies and toddlers about their neighborhood block parties.

Mother-of-two Stacey Brod helps coordinate the annual holiday block party in her neighborhood, Briarmeadow. It’s typically in mid-December, and everyone is invited, kids or no kids. The neighbors block off the street for the safety of the more than 60 little ones, although cars can still get through if needed. They use the website so people can sign up to bring a dish, Christmas cookies, drinks (especially juice boxes for the kids), and even activities like coloring books and crayons for an activity table. On the website, neighbors can also sign up to help coordinate or pitch in for a bigger activity, like renting a bouncy house or hiring a face painter.

Kids of all ages line up for the bouncy houses. Stacey’s neighbors chip in around $200 to rent two, a bigger one for the older kids and a toddler-sized one for children 3 and under. “They are typically set up in my driveway,” said Stacey. “When the party was over last year, I was left with a ton of shoes and random socks. [It] was a sign of a good time.”

Sometimes, the group efforts can get a little confusing when everyone wants to help out. Last December, two face painters were accidentally booked for the party. They both showed up to set up as perplexed neighbors exchanged glances. In the meantime, that day’s especially strong wind was in the process of blowing a party tent down, all something to laugh about now.

Stacey and her neighbors arrange for Santa Claus to arrive at the party. For a lot of the babies, it’s their first time to see Santa, so it makes for some cute photo opportunities. The organizers have personalized styrofoam cups made for the adult beverages and hire musical entertainment, like a mariachi band, to play festive Christmas songs. 

Lauren Harte-Hargrove co-hosts an annual fall neighborhood party in West University with friends Jennifer Kuzma and Amanda Duguid. They invite neighborhood kids (typically around 30-40 show up) to bring their ride-along toys and wagons and meet up at Judson Park. “We are big on arts and crafts,” said Lauren. “We do paint-your-own pumpkin, or decorate a bookmark or door hanger with Halloween and fall stickers.” The parents bring balls for the little ones to throw around, plus bubbles, scooters and bikes.

Lauren’s husband, Kevin Hargrove, helps chase the kids while Lauren helps set up the activities with the other hosts. “My favorite thing about [the block party] is the potluck meals and reconnecting with neighbors,” said Kevin. For the first year they did it, they arranged for a food truck to come serve up the party. Now, each neighbor brings a dish.

Not everyone loves a block party. “Last year, someone – who we assume was a crotchety neighbor – got all the kids kicked off the tennis courts where they were riding their [scooters],” said Lauren. “It didn’t ruin the fun though.”

Sheena Varughese loves to go to block parties with her children. The Bellaire Young Mothers volunteer suggested activities for the younger ones like a bubble car wash with Little Tikes cars, carol singing, cookie decorating, a parade of costumes, face painting and a scavenger hunt.

So even if your street isn’t hosting a Pinterest-worthy party this season, you can always just grab the kids, a blanket, some chairs, (some wine), and step out on your front lawn. Your kids can run around with their neighborhood friends and, who knows, you might even start a new tradition.

Editor’s note: Have any neighborhood party tales to share, or suggestions to make block gatherings a hit? Leave a comment below.

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