Wilton Youth Council (WYC) officials were thrilled with residents’ response to the first Big Block Party Weekend. In a continued effort to strengthen neighborhood connections and create opportunity for face-to-face conversation, Wilton Youth Council’s Free Play Matters Task Force is encouraging participation in the next Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend.

With a theme, “Building community one block at a time,” the second town-wide weekend is scheduled for Sept. 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.”

The initiative has a two-pronged goal. Organizers hope to connect neighbors for face-to-face interaction and also create more opportunities for free play, since families will get to know one another. The task force hopes that hearing about the success of Wilton’s first Big Block Party Weekend in June will inspire residents to get together again or take the opportunity to plan their first gathering.

“Over 800 Wilton residents participated in a block party in June and the feedback has been inspiring. Many said the Big Block Party Weekend was the push they needed to organize something, and so many have expressed thanks to their block party captains for getting everyone together,” says Vanessa Elias, a member of the Free Play Matters Task Force, and WYC president. “After my block party, I took a moment to reflect on whether I felt differently and realized that I felt more ‘grounded’ and had a more positive connection to people on my road. Our egg toss created many laughs and treasured memories for kids and adults alike! Immediately after the party, our neighborhood kids were asking when the next one would be.”

Many Wilton residents posted photos and comments on the Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend Facebook Page to share their experience and the fun they had.

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“My thought was how wonderful our get-together was. Once upon a time, in the 80s, we were neighborly, with coffees and cocktail parties and plants for new arrivals. All my original neighbors have come and gone. With the block party, we rekindled that spirit Saturday night, and I remarked to my husband that I no longer felt anonymous. I can now name everyone on the street, including all the children. What a great idea!!” said Noel Konrad, Downe Lane resident since 1982.

Information for residents who would like to participate

The Free Play Task Force has provide its “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

There’s also a “How-to List for Block Party Captains”:

  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 have 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.
Feel Inspired? Be a Block Party Captain!

Visit the “Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend” Facebook page. 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, please email the task force or Elias directly.

“We know that human connection is the cornerstone of happiness. Plan your block party now to facilitate connection between children and adults in your neighborhood,” said Elias.

The mission of the Wilton Free Play Task Force is to inspire and educate the Wilton 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 email the chairwoman, Colleen Fawcett, LCSW in the Wilton Social Services office.