Lexington, KY – President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “As man draws nearer to the stars, why should he not also draw nearer to his neighbor?” Unfortunately, most of us have been groomed by society to keep to ourselves. The ability to drive home from work straight into the garage, head into the house without seeing a soul and then proceed to watch three hours worth of DVR shows definitely perpetuates the culture of keeping people at arms length.
Lexington is a big city to some and a small town to others. My husband grew up in a holler in southeast Kentucky and Lexington was definitely considered the big city. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio (talk about two cultures colliding), and Lexington seems like a rather sleepy town to me. But one thing was the same about our childhoods: we knew our neighbors. My parents made it a point to chat daily with those on our street and knew when someone needed a hand in the garden or their mail picked up while on vacation. The same was also true for my husband.
So when we got married and bought our first house in Lexington, we were flabbergasted that our neighbors rarely lifted their heads to give a warm smile or wave their hand as we drove down the street. Even if we received the occasional head nod while walking the dog, we felt like strangers on our own block.
Two Christmases ago we made it our mission to deliver baked goods to our neighbors within a three-house radius. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. That one act has opened the door to some great relationships with those living near us. When our son was born last year, the elderly woman next door brought a beautiful baby gift and sat peacefully rocking our newborn in her arms. And when the pesky raccoon tried to make a home in our crawlspace under the house last fall, another neighbor came to let us know of the raccoons comings and goings and helped us formulate a plan of action to rid our crawlspace of the uninvited guest.
To further develop these relationships and build new ones, we hope to plan a neighborhood block party this summer. Besides the fact that warm weather is made for outdoor gatherings, planning a block party can be a perfect way to break the ice with old neighbors, welcome new neighbors and an overall great way to get to know the people living around you. Many neighborhoods in the Lexington area have had great success with block parties and several have continued the tradition year after year spanning several decades.
Consider stepping out on a limb this summer to build community with those living around you by hosting your own neighborhood block party. It will take some time and energy but the payoff is definitely worth it.
Here are some helpful steps to planning a great block party:
Set a date
Summer weather, as we all know, can be unpredictable. When picking a date, go ahead and set a rain date. Jim Gallimore from the Division of Traffic Engineering says that in Lexington, it is essential to apply for a block party permit (more about this later) a full 10 days prior to the event and indicate on the application your rain date option.
Form a committee
This step needs not be too fussy, but delegating tasks for your party will be essential. So gather whatever neighbors look the friendliest and most capable and plan a meeting to formulate a plan of action. You shouldn’t need more than a half dozen neighbors to organize a great party.