City residents threw a record 102 block parties in 2015.
“It’s our biggest year ever,” said the city’s neighbourhood development co-ordinator, Angie Dedrick.
The City of St. Albert teams up with the Neighbourhood Watch Association of St. Albert and St. Albert Citizen’s Patrol Society every year to help residents get to know their neighbours with block parties.
The city offers resources like applications for street closures and tips on how to organize a party. There’s also recreation equipment that can be borrowed. The neighbourhood watch and citizen’s patrol groups provide free hamburgers and hot dogs once a year to each block party.
The 102 parties is the first time in the last decade that the block party total has cracked the triple-digit mark. The previous high was 87 in 2013, and there were 78 in 2014. It’s all a far cry from the 15 held in 2005.
“I think it’s just building momentum,” she said of why the last year was a banner one.
Dedrick speculated that some new initiatives in 2015 might have helped drive up the numbers, like introducing block party mentors. The mentors are experienced block party planners who were available for rookies to ask for information and advice.
It also rained less during the summer of 2015.
“I think that helped,” she said.
The 102, of course, are just the block parties that were registered. Some neighbourhoods might have parties that they didn’t need street closures for or access to the other resources offered, she said.
While the majority of parties happen in the summer months, some are thrown during less warm months.
“The winter can be a fun time to do it as long as you plan for the elements,” Dedrick said.
There are many repeated parties every year, Dedrick said.
Ian Harris and his wife Linda have helped throw repeated parties for their neighbourhood. In 2015 they were also block party mentors.
After some neighbours had tossed out the idea of a block party during a Christmas gathering a few years back, he and Linda ended up going door to door along their crescent in the Dorchester area of Deer Ridge to build a contact list and gauge interest.
They went to the city’s block party boot camp event and found out about the resources that were available. The first year they had about 80 people and a similar number attended during the second year. In 2015 about 60 people came out, but Ian said it was raining until just minutes before the party started.
The couple has seen a big difference on their street since the block party tradition began.
“I’ll tell you, when you go for a walk around the block now … people talk to each other now,” Ian said. “It’s a lot warmer crescent now than it was four or five years ago.”
They’ve even ended up using their contact lists to help spread the word when there has been security issues spotted around the neighbourhood – neighbours helping neighbours.
Lest you think block parties are just for families with kids, Ian noted his neighbourhood is mostly older people with a handful of young families.
After their successes, they joined the Neighbourhood Network and signed up to be block party mentors.
“There was several new block parties this year that went ahead because people finally got a bit of a push and feeling like they could do it,” Ian said.
With 2015 now the best block party year on record, Dedrick said there’s a new partnership with the St. Albert Christian Ministerial Association in 2016 to help spread the word about block parties.
“We’re hoping to get a block party on every street,” Dedrick said. That might have to be a long-term goal, she acknowledged, since there’s about 696 of them.