This weekend marks the 4th annual Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend. Since its inception in 2018 (skipped in 2020), Wilton Youth Council‘s Free Play Task Force’s efforts have brought thousands of Wiltonites together for fun, food, play and conversation in hundreds of old-fashioned block parties throughout Wilton.
Two weekends bookending the summer are designated each year to inspire residents to organize an old-fashioned block party with their neighbors for connection in real life and create opportunities for children’s neighborhood free play. This year’s dates are June 4-5 and Sept. 17-18. If those weekends won’t work, any other will do — the goal is just to make it happen as Wilton is “building community one block at a time.”
“This time of year can get incredibly hectic, with many of us not taking the necessary time for ourselves to recharge. Neighborhood Block Parties offer the perfect time to socialize with neighbors and connect with those new to town,” Wilton Youth Council Executive Director Chandra Ring said. “My family has been very lucky to live in neighborhoods with wonderful traditions of block parties. It’s great to see all the kids relaxed and running around while we connect with the adults! My neighborhood hosts a great chili cookoff at our block party, so good food and fun wrapped in one!”
With so many new families in town, and the isolation from the last two years, WYC officials believe that there is no better time to get out and meet your neighbors. They encourage this as the perfect opportunity to introduce new residents to the Wilton spirit of community and get kids playing outside.
“When we get together, face-to-face, we realize that we have more in common than we are different,” Vanessa Elias, Wilton’s Big Block Party Weekend founder and Free Play Task Force co-founder pointed out.
The Task Force stressed the importance of keeping it simple, especially this year, suggesting that a covered table, BYOB and potluck finger foods are all that’s needed to get started. By taking the lead, being a block party captain or just attending the event, residents can help the community’s mental health by ending social isolation, loneliness and increasing civility through human connection.
More information for residents who would like to participate is available on Wilton Youth Council’s website, but WYC suggests the following:
WHY have a block party? The benefits are endless, including the following top reasons:
- Welcome all of the new neighbors to Wilton, as well as connect with those we’ve known for longer.
- Increase a sense of belonging in the community
- Get outside, make friends and have fun — no excuses are needed to celebrate
- Find neighborhood playmates for your children
- Provide the opportunity for face-to-face connection and conversation
- Meet some of the long-standing neighbors and learn about your community history
- Decrease stress of snow days, storms, and emergency situations
- Create a neighborhood contact list
HOW to have a block party? Be a Block Party Captain. Here are some helpful tips:
- Keep it simple and low-key (try not to go overboard, it can make people feel the event is too much work)
- Recruit another neighbor or two to help
- Decide on a location (road, common space, or yard)
- Decide what day and time work best for your neighborhood
- Decide on the type of event — picnic, barbecue, potluck, etc.
- Establish block boundaries (use natural neighborhood boundaries where possible) to include approximately 20-30 houses. Remember those on adjacent busier roads.
- Have a child create the flyer to put in mailboxes.
- Distribute the flyer in all invited mailboxes — children love to do this task!
- Remember, keep it simple. Think old-fashioned block parties.
HOW to encourage participation? The task force suggests making a flyer to put in 20-30 mailboxes of neighbors (especially helpful if you don’t know your neighbors). Tips for a flyer:
- Share some of the reasons to have a block party (see above).
- Solicit opinions on how to handle the food.
- Suggest possible dates and times for the event.
- Use the flyer to encourage attendance.
- Include your contact information so your neighbors can email or call you if they would like to help. Most participating neighborhoods have had two or three residents offer to help.
- Remind everyone to keep it simple. It’s just about getting together.
WHERE to have the Block Party?
- Note regarding road closures — the Wilton Police Department discourages residents from officially closing their roads, as emergency vehicles need to be able to pass. Permits for road closures will only be considered for dead-end roads. To obtain such a permit, signatures are required from all residents, plus various town departments.
- 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.