Western Springs residents continue tradition of block parties
Virginia Renesch, 92, takes part in the block party at the 5400 block of Woodland. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Why do it?
Q & A with organizer Kathy Sternic,
What kinds of events do you have when organizing a block party?
We had a fire truck a DJ, we’ve got games for the kids that will run like an hour, where everybody gets a prize. We’ve got a guys bake-off contest, the guys bake something and there is judging and if you win it’s a trophy and bragging rights. … And water balloon fights.
How did you get involved with the block party’s organization?
I’ve done it the last several years. And someone else did it the last couple before. … We talk about it and somebody always takes on the role (of organizer).
Is a block party just for the kids?
It’s just as much for the adults as it is for the kids. … The little ones, they’ll go to bed and we’ll bring out the (baby) monitors and it turns more into an adult party in the evening.
How big a deal is this party for the children?
The kids look forward to it all year, but so do the adults. We really, you know we talk about it all year. We always (try) to do something different and fun.
Why do it. Why go through the trouble?
You know, we feel like we’re creating great memories for the kids and you know when they’re older and they look back on their childhood, this will be a really big part of it.
Updated: August 20, 2012 6:12AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — Three young girls squeezed into one firefighter’s jacket and walked awkwardly down the 3800 block of Lawn Avenue. In front of them sat one of the big red fire engines of the Western Springs Fire Department. Behind them a disk jockey pumped pop music and a tent shaded a table where men prepared multi-colored ice slushies.
The rain had just stopped, the clouds had cleared and the sun fried the humid air, drawing sweat from the foreheads of those not standing beneath one of the grand shade trees on the avenue.
It was July 14, it was hot, it was loud, the children ran yelling through front yards, the adults carried drinks and those who stayed inside missed out on the annual Lawn Avenue block party.
This year Kathy Sternic was the resident who applied for the block party’s permit. She said that about 20 years ago the block had a strong tradition of holding block parties, but the tradition died out as children got older and participation waned. Now, however, Lawn Avenue has new families and a new generation of young children.
“This is the fourth year now that the block party has been resurrected, here on Lawn, here on our block,” Sternic said.
The Western Springs’s Municipal Services Department reports fewer people have applied for block parties this year than in previous years. A spokesperson said the reason for fewer party applications is not known.
In 2011, people from 66 blocks applied for a party permit. This year, so far, only 11 have applied with six more coming up in the future.
The application process is easy. Anyone wishing to hold one need only to fill out an application and deposit $50 for street cones. After the party ends and the cones are returned, the $50 deposit is returned.
Even if all neighbors are not interested in participating in the block party, the village asks applicants to get as many neighbors’ signatures as possible.
Residents also have the option of having a fire truck come to their block party for the children to see, free of charge, which explains the presence of the fire engine at the Lawn Avenue block party.
Western Springs has a long tradition of block parties, with the same people often seen applying year after year. According to the village, the parties start as soon as the weather turns nice at the beginning of each year and end the second week of October.
Lawn Avenue resident Leslie Spears helped her son step down from the fire engine, upon which he had been playing. Growing up, Spears never attended a block party.
“I know people who did, but we didn’t have one on our block,” she said.
She feels as though she missed out.
“I mean, how much fun, for kids. It’s really for the kids,” Spears said.
This is the second year Spears and her family have lived on Lawn Avenue, and the second block party they’ve attended. Spears said it is a “Chance for neighbors to come out to the street and gather and play games and eat and have drinks.”
As the afternoon wore on the DJ played music the adults would identify, such as Peter Gabriel and Randy Newman.
Sternic walked through the street with a digital camera around her neck, snapping photographs. At one point she called out for all the children to come and gather near the fire truck for a group photograph.
“A block party is when you have the opportunity to get all the neighbors together at once and eat and drink and have the kids play,” She said.
But, not all blocks will be having block parties this year.
“You know when it’s just your block it makes it something special,” Sternic said.