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A beautiful day in the neighborhood

August 15, 2010
By MICHELLE ROBBINS Tribune Chronicle
For more than 20 years, the party’s been on the northeast side of Fairmount Avenue in Warren. As one resident put it, they’ve watched a generation grow up out there. The Fairmount block party, in existence annually since 1987, has in the past featured fire trucks and clowns. Rick Brothers said he was a founder along with Al Sweet and a “young politician named Mike O’Brien.” “We try to take turns,” he said, “back and forth one end or the other.” With an official street sign that reads “BLOCK PARTY” keeping cars from invading the festivities, the neighborhood gathered on Aug. 1 this year. Warren Mayor Michael J. O’Brien said there is a permit that block party organizers need to fill out. The mayor said he now attends about a dozen different block parties throughout the summer season. He said at the first Fairmount party, everyone wore nametags, and he recommends it for those new to the block party business, along with the basics such as passing around a flyer to everyone, working with the city to inform police and fire departments and choosing a manageable area, about 40 houses or so. “Have a little table that has nametags — Hi, my name is...,” he said. “That’s just the first year you have to do that, and then it takes shape in the years to come.” In Girard, permits are not required. “They generally request that the street department give them the horses — the barricades —?to shug down the street,” said Mayor James Melfi. “It’s up to each individual street. Sometimes it doesn’t even get up to me.” He said they’re fairly small, too — literally, just a block. Liz Sweet, who took her turn as an organizer for the 2010 Fairmount Avenue event, said the block party was always a big deal for the kids. “They were allowed on the street that day,” she said. “They went to the Dollar Store and got stuff to decorate their bikes.” Later, a they’d show off their creativity in a parade. Some of those kids were in attendance as adults this year, including Sweet’s daughters Ellen Sweet and Chrissy Macaulay, along with a granddaughter, Brenna Macaulay, who is 1. She also has a son and another daughter, and the pictures of parties past were passed around. The multiple generations in attendance are what O’Brien appreciates about the block parties — having the older residents of the neighborhood, who may have been there 30 years, talking to the neighbors that have been three or five years. “It really strengthens the neighborhood, and strengthens the camaraderie between young and old,” he said. It means older neighbors will look out for the children in the neighborhood, and later on younger neighbors help the older ones with maintenance of their homes, such as shoveling snow or raking leaves. “And it all started with with the one simple block party,” O’Brien said. Melfi said his street used to have one every year for a while, but summers get busy and time flies. But when he’s invited, he goes. “Sometimes the job I’m in, people want to show me things that need remedied or so forth,” he said. “It’s good neighbors get together, talk, inevitably things that are needed in the neighborhood and ideas are raised.” Adults and children alike on Fairmount Avenue have a water balloon toss. Other games for children include picking up candy for little ones, a frozen sock contest and pie-in-the-face music game (or whipped cream, in this instance.) Grown-up activities include a 50/50 raffle, door prizes and a dessert contest. Speaking of food, there are tables-full, most delicously a shish kabob recipe that also is a tradition. To help pay for the main dish and supplies, there is a charge of $5 for adults and $3 for children. This neighborhood also organizes a luminary display for Christmas, and a community garage sale was set for this month as well. “We try to know all our neighbors, because it’s a good thing,” Brothers said. “We try to look out for each other.” Tom Dobson, despite his grown-up status, said he likes to see the fire trucks visit, and he enjoys the water balloon toss. “You get a chance to meet everybody,” Dobson said, surveying the crowd seated at tables or picking up their prizes. “I think half these people we wouldn’t have a chance to know if it weren’t for the block party.”

Article Photos

Fairmount Avenue resident Keith Folman mans the grill at the annual block party on Aug. 1.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple



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