Block party offers lessons

WARREN – Dylen Pietrantonio admitted that if he grows up to become a fireman, he wants to be the one sitting in the driver’s seat of a big red truck like the one he got to check out on Saturday.

The 4-year-old Warren boy had an opportunity to discuss the possibility with Warren Fire Department assistant Chief Dan Suttles during the annual Historic Neighborhood Association Block Party.

The event, in its seventh year, featured games, food, face painting, live music by solo artist Just Matt and a visit from Warren firefighters. Warren Mayor Doug Franklin also stopped by the event, which was held in the area of Prospect Avenue N.W. at Belmont Street and Washington Street N.W.

“This is where I want to be,” exclaimed Pietrantonio from inside the truck as he gave his dad, Dean Deciancios Sr., a high five. “This is the best.”

For Alecia Smith, 8, of Warren, the best part was the face painting. She was among several neighborhood children who stood in line as Kathy Lepro, association chairwoman, adorned them with colorful stars, flowers and symbols.

Lepro explained that the annual block party was launched as a way to bring the neighborhood together and encourage residents to get involved with the association.

“It all started seven years ago when we decided to try to get people to come to our meetings,” Lepro explained.

“So why not do a community event to get people together? We get donations from local establishments and a lot of people help make it a nice event for everyone. It really has become a nice community event that everyone looks forward to.”

Lepro said the event typically draws between 130 and 150 people.

Association member Andrew Herman, who organizes the kids’ games, said the goal is to make the block party an all-ages event with something for everyone.

“I like doing the kids’ games. But we have music and food. It really is a great way for the neighborhood to come together,” he said.

On Saturday, Herman came up with the on-the-spot idea to have a kids’ handshaking contest. The winners, Keith Gambrell, 8, and Ta’Shawnna Cole, 3, demonstrated their skills for the crowd.

“I think next time maybe we’ll require everyone to shake hands with someone they don’t know,” Herman said. “That way people will have even more reason to mingle and it would be a way for them to meet neighbors they really don’t know. And maybe our winners from this year could show them a thing or two about the art of handshaking.”