During the three decades we’ve lived on the 1000 block of Beloit, we’ve had exactly two block parties. Our last one was in 2007. Then-commissioner Rory Hoskins was the driving force.
This year’s block party was the brainchild of Nicole, Resa and other women on the block. Women like Danylle, Diane and Terri did the bulk of the work. This included circulating petitions, making fliers and delivering them. They also collected funds and did the food shopping. Besides all of this, they arranged for the bouncy house, DJ, and visits by the fire department and police.
By 8 a.m., kids were already leaping about inside the bouncy house. I doubted they could keep it up in the extreme heat, but they were still going 12 hours later. In the meantime, they delighted in taking to the street with their bikes, scooters and skateboards. They were sustained by a steady diet of snacks, cold drinks and snow cones.
When it came to carrying tables, setting up chairs and moving grills, I was careful not to help. Besides, I was busy talking college football with my brand new buddies. As the temperature dropped to a safe level, adults emerged from their houses. It was still too hot for one longtime resident named Jan, but she generously donated bags of chips and treats for the kids.
My new neighbor, Hussein, who had just arrived from Saudi Arabia with his wife and three kids, hoped the block party was a regular event. While his son glided smoothly through the street on a scooter, he asked if we did this monthly. Meanwhile, our daughters arrived with our three grandsons. The boys were accustomed to festivals in far-off suburbs, but this was downhome Forest Park fun.
A police officer arrived and apparently let every kid on the block push the piercing siren. Then there was the siren call of the fire truck at other end of Beloit. Kids flocked there and danced in the spray. It was one of highlights of the day. But as more and more adults gathered, their sentiment was, “Why should the kids have all the fun?”
I met William from the 1100 block, who had hosted a gathering in his backyard that brought together longtime neighbors for the first time. I chatted with Norm and Ruth who have only lived on the block for 44 years. There were so many different shades of skin color mingling in the street, I could almost hear Satchmo singing “What a Wonderful World.”
By 4 p.m., playtime was over for me. It was time to grill. Soon I was slaving over two hot grills, cooking over 100 hamburgers. Thankfully, I had a crack crew. Roy and Larry shuttled the burgers to the food table, while Jerry cooked the hot dogs. Jerry delivers the Review each week, and I had to agree with him that writing the paper is a snap compared to carrying those heavy stacks.
At 8 p.m., the DJ arrived and the party wound down by 9. People still perched on lawn chairs in the street, wishing that Beloit could always be blocked off like this.
It would certainly make it safer for the children.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.