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Rockwood's annual community festival is set for May 29, 30



Now in its third year, Rock the Block continues as a celebration reflecting the unique community of Rockwood.

The event spans two days, May 29 and 30, at the Plaza del Sol, 18535 S.E. Stark Street.

With events such as a kids’ parade led by llamas and a variety of music performances, every hour of the two-day festival is packed with something different.

The theme this year is “summer reading,” and many of the activities will reflect that theme, said Brooke Crews of Pathfinders of Oregon, one of Rock the Block's main sponsors and the organizing force.

“At the event this year our theme is literacy, so we added a ‘reading together’ tent, and it’s hosted by Oregon Humanities and the Multnomah County Library,” Crews noted. “There will be multilingual reading activities, free book giveaways, face painting and special gusts in the tent.”

Some of those guests include award winning author Micthell Jackson, whose novel “The Residue Years” caught Oprah Winfrey’s attention; former Trailblazer Brian Grant; and the Portland Rose Festival Court.

Jackson is a Portland native who grew up in Northeast Portland and graduated from Jefferson High School. He said he got caught up in dealing crack and was later arrested for drugs and gun possession. After serving time in prison he went to Portland State University, where he received a master’s of art in writing and has since won many awards for his work.

“It just serves as an example of what you can achieve when you overcome adversity, which a lot of children in Rockwood are facing,” Crews said.

Rock the Block was first organized in Rockwood in 2013 as an event “to connect families and young people to positive ongoing activities in the community and to potentially life-saving resources,” he added.

Pathfinders, the city of Gresham and Multnomah County are the event's main sponsors, and many other organizations will be represented at booths.

“We want it to be a big, free festive community celebration for everyone to join in,” Crews said.

Lynn Ketch, director of wellness at the Rockwood Community Development Corporation, is one of the people charged with providing Rock the Block's volunteers. She has spent weeks teaming up with local groups to bring in youth in need of community service hours and others who want to be involved.

As Rock the Block continues to grow, Ketch hopes to get the community even more involved in future years.

“Families that live in the Rockwood community can come, celebrate living there, being there, the diversity,” Ketch said. “It’s right in the center of the business district with all of the homes and apartments that are around it. It’s easy to walk to.”

Part of the community aspect this year is the Gresham Redevelopment Commission’s launch of its public outreach campaign for the Rockwood Catalyst Site, where Rock the Block takes place.

Josh Fuhrer, executive director of GRDC, said there will be information about what’s coming to the catalyst site and a chance for people to choose what they would like to see.

“Over the next six months we’re going to have a number of events in Rockwood engaging with the community,” Fuhrer said. “We have a number of events planned that are fun and interactive that will get people engaged in helping us put together the pieces.”

Fuhrer hopes that by this time next year at least some construction on a food marketplace and a technology center will be underway and two years from now the site will be transformed even more with small businesses and restaurants.

“Rock the Block is a big community annual event in Rockwood that is an opportunity for folks to come meet their neighbors and see and hear what’s going on the community,” Fuhrer said. “It provides an opportunity for folks to get to know one another and see all the great things that are done by people in the community.”

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