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A post-pandemic block party in Woodstock draws interest from other blocks on just how to conduct one

COURTESY OF CEDRIC CUMMINGS - As the afternoon Woodstock block party heated up, a colorful inflatable giraffe spouting water - making a rainbow - was a big hit with the children on the block.  In Southeast Portland, neighborhood "block parties" were very popular in the 1980s and 90s. At that time, Southeast Uplift (SEUL) — the nonprofit, city-supported coalition of twenty Southeast Portland neighborhoods — would send out the liaison for that particular neighborhood to meet with neighbors living on the chosen block to plan the party in someone's living room.

The liaison and neighbors would discuss how to host a block party. They would learn how to get permission to shut off traffic for a few hours on one block of a city street, how to obtain a permit, and how to keep it safe and fun.

These days that sort of personal help from a city agency no longer happens; but many savvy neighbors, with the help of the Internet, know how to get city permission and to organize on their own. That happened recently on a stretch of S.E. 47th Avenue in the Woodstock neighborhood.

On Saturday, September 24th, after colorful fliers had been posted for about two weeks and delivered to neighbors, several dozen residents came to the gathering, including those who live a few blocks away.

"I really liked seeing the diversity [of people] that I hadn't seen before," commented Gregory Cimmiyotti, who lives with her husband in an ADU ("accessory dwelling unit") behind a house that has been in their family for many years. Her grandfather, George, who lives in the family house, knows and cares about everyone on the block — and knits the block together.

"He is like the 'mayor of Woodstock'", remarked neighbor Jim, or like the "block's grandfather", as another neighbor put it. "I was out of town, but I heard it was a really big and good gathering," says Jim. "Two neighbors, Tracy and Catie, did the leg work, and set up everything for kids."

There was popcorn from a big red popper, a potluck, and face painting by Catie Tam and her artist mother, Fran Belcastro Dearborn — who drove up from Klamath Falls for the occasion. "We painted about 25 faces," said Tam.

To the delight of the children, toward the end of the party, as the weather warmed up, a nine-foot inflated colorful plastic giraffe emerged from a garage. Hooked up to a garden hose, it spouted a powerful spray of water from its nose! The children cooled off on the warm early-autumn day..

Block member Nancy Cummings, who teaches "Music Explorer" lessons at the Community Music Center in Southeast Portland, gave a "Mommy and Me" small music class to neighborhood children; they sang "Musical Monsters" and "Budding Bookworms", and danced. Cedric Cummings smiled, "They had a total blast."

After over two years of the pandemic, this group of 47th Avenue neighbors celebrated being together again and meeting new people living nearby. Everyone on the block was excited to have a celebration and stepped up to help make this first block party a success.

If this sounds like something you'd like to have on your block, here's how they arranged it.

The neighbors started talking about a block party in mid-August — first choosing a date and time, with a backup date in case there was rain or extreme heat. They applied for a Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) "Healthy Blocks" permit, and formed a small committee to work out the details — such as what to do about food, music, activities, and games.

To get permission from the city to close off the street on their block, they contacted PBOT Healthy Blocks at 503/823-4003 — but they could instead have emailed — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can apply for the free permit online —

Information regarding traffic barriers — including when household items such as garbage cans may be used for the purpose — is sent along with the approved permit. Catie Tam told THE BEE, "Keep in mind that the 'Healthy Blocks' application may take between 7-15 business days to process, so plan ahead!" With these steps, your own block's party should be a big success!

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