In an effort to strengthen neighborhood connections and create opportunity for face-to-face conversation, Wilton Youth Council’s Free Play Task Force is encouraging participation in Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend. The theme is “Building community one block at a time.”  The town-wide 2018 weekends are June 9-10 and/or September 15-16, with each road or neighborhood choosing their own day and time.  There are no hard and fast rules for the events, but people are encouraged to think simple and keep it “old-fashioned.”

“Lots of neighborhoods in Wilton have an annual block party, and friends tell me what a fun tradition that is for their family.  We see this as an excuse for more people to get their neighbors together, even if they might have felt awkward suggesting it otherwise. We hope that people will remember to keep it simple, as it is about fostering community, not pony rides or elaborate planning,” said Vanessa Elias, a member of the Free Play Task Force. “We have a two-pronged goal of creating opportunities for Wilton residents to connect in person instead of on social media, as well as helping children to make friends in their neighborhood in order to foster more neighborhood free play.”

For residents who would like to participate, the Wilton Youth Council has compiled some helpful information:

Top Reasons to have a Block Party

  1. Meet and get to know your neighbors
  2. Increase a sense of belonging in the community
  3. Get outside, make friends and have fun – no excuses are needed to celebrate
  4. Find neighborhood playmates for your children
  5. Opportunity for face-to-face connection and conversation
  6. Meet some of the long standing neighbors and learn about your community history
  7. Decrease stress of snow days, storms and emergency situations
  8. Create a neighborhood contact list

Block Party Captain How-To:

  1. Keep it simple and low-key (try not to go overboard, it can make people feel the event is too much work)
  2. Recruit another neighbor or two to help
  3. Decide on a location (road, common space, or yard)
  4. Decide what day and time works best for your neighborhood
  5. Decide on the type of event – picnic, barbecue, potluck, etc.
  6. Establish block boundaries (use natural neighborhood boundaries where possible) to include approximately 20-30 houses. Remember those on adjacent busier roads.
  7. Have a child create the flyer to put in mailboxes
  8. Distribute the flyer (or have a child or teen do so?) in all invited mailboxes
  9. Remember, keep it simple. Think old-fashioned block parties.

If you don’t know any of your neighbors, the task force suggests making a flyer to put in 20-30 mailboxes of neighbors.  You might use the flyer to encourage attendance, share some of the reasons to have a block party, get opinions on how to handle the food, and suggest possible dates and times to have the event.  Include your contact information on the flyer so that your neighbors can email or call you if they would like to help. So far, most participating neighborhoods have had three or four residents offer to help.

Wilton Police are discouraging residents from officially closing their roads as they want to be sure that emergency vehicles are able to pass. They will only consider permits for road closures for dead ends.  In those cases, signatures are required from all residents, plus various town departments in order for the permit to be granted. Instead, some neighborhoods have decided to hold their block party in someone’s yard, at the end of a driveway, or on the side of their road without obstructing traffic. Experienced block party planners suggest using a combination of balloons, signs that read “Caution Block Party in Progress,” and orange cones to alert drivers to the party in progress.

On FaceBook, visit “Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend.”  Organizers are asking residents to share their plans by commenting on the pinned post at the top of the page. For more information or questions, email organizers or Elias.

“Every single week we read a news report on how children, teens and adults are suffering from ever-increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Recently I read that half of all Americans are lonely, and the younger generations are actually more lonely than older people. The UK appointed a Minister of Loneliness earlier this year! The amount of time we spend having face-to-face social interactions is directly correlated with our mental health, life quality and even our life expectancy. Block parties are the perfect venue to reach all ages,” said Elias.

The mission of the Wilton Free Play Task Force is to inspire and educate the community about the critical importance of Free Play, and to facilitate the creation of more free play and free range opportunities for children. The Task Force is focusing on three key areas of Family/Neighborhood, School and Community. For more information on the Task Force, please contact the chair, Colleen Fawcett, LCSW via email.