When I was growing up in a small rural community in central Alberta, I never would have guessed that years later I would feel planted in the city enjoying some of the benefits of a small town community right in the midst of a city. Growing up on a farm in Alberta had lots of benefits but some of the richest were the many ways that we ended up building connections together with our neighbours. We gathered together for functions. My parents lent equipment or a hand to each other, called each other if something of question was going on on their land, drove each other’s kids around, coached each other’s kids, laughed together, and even shed the occasional tear together. I never would have dreamed that this same sense of community, belonging & support could develop in the city.
My husband and I have lived in our little corner of Greenfield now for nearly 17 years and we have benefited immeasurably through the community that surrounds us. We enjoy connections with neighbours of various different talents, often sharing skills with each other. We shared toys, tools, food, and great conversations. We keep an eye open for each other’s homes, kids and pets. We have adopted grandparents for our kids and dog. We gather to celebrate. We gather to grieve.
When I reflect back to the very beginning, I recognize that one of the keys to these connections developing was that we moved onto a block where there was already a traditional block party booked for each June. I remember the first summer as we timidly walked down the street to join the party. The street was blocked off, kids were riding their decorated biked all over and BBQ’s, tables and chairs were pulled into the street. Within minutes I had this immediate feel of “small town community”. Kids were playing on the street, adults were introducing themselves to each and many others were reminiscing of the years of old. We were included and belonged!
Our block continues to host a block party every summer, rain or shine...over 30 years running! It isn’t super fancy as we gather a few BBQ’s, share food, fire pit and games. Through it all there is a sense that we can belong and care for each other making our little town in the midst of the city a thriving place to growth and connect.
If you would like to start a legacy of block parties on your block or in your alley these websites might be helpful resources for you. The sites are also rich with fresh ideas if your block party has already been going for a while now. The city recognizes the importance of connections like this and are happy to help with resources. Feel free to connect with us on the Greenfield board too if you would like more stories and ideas for how to coordinate your party.
Cheers to your “small town” in the city!
- Loretta James
Play Streets: https://www.edmonton.ca/ residential_neighbourhoods/neighbourhoods/playstreets.aspx