The Sandpoint Eater: Block out your summer celebration

By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist

We’re a hearty bunch here in North Idaho, and a few raindrops didn’t dampen our party spirits last weekend. Whether you gathered near the lake, on the lake, in the woods or in a neighborhood backyard, inclement weather didn’t quell our “it’s summer, let’s party” attitudes. While we love our summer lake living, you really don’t even need a lake environment for a great summer event.

A couple of years ago in Chicago, I was out for walk on a warm summer evening, and as I rounded a corner I came upon more than a hundred people performing the Macarena, smack in the middle of the street. Yep, the Macarena, as far down the street as I could see (don’t judge me, but I hadn’t seen a Macarena lineup since I’d bribed an adolescent Casey with $20 to get one going at a Montana wedding reception). Fascinated and curious, I ventured down the street to have a better look. Closed to traffic, three city blocks were lined with grills, coolers brimming with ice and beverages and tables heaped with an array of potluck foods. Dancers of all ages bopped to party music blaring from overhead speakers, kids armed with squirt guns darted between houses and young parents gathered in the middle of the street to share a cold one while the oldsters, in sturdy lawn chairs, bantered and kept a watchful eye on a brood of sleeping babies. The street was loud and alive with such an abundance of community spirit that I for a moment, I longed to live smack in the middle of the neighborhood. By the time I reached the end of the barricade and the party, I’d met some great and generous people, sampled delicious homemade foods including crispy barrel pickles, spicy kielbasa and sticky poppy seed cake. I sipped homemade wine, polished off a bottle of local beer, and made plans to return someday for this annual event, still going strong after more than 40 years.

You can imagine how delighted I was to learn my own Ponderpoint neighborhood was hosting their first annual community block party. Last Friday evening, dozens of neighbors spilled into the street for grilled hot dogs and a potluck of sides. It was a great occasion to meet new neighbors and catch up with old ones (and shamefully acknowledge that I have neighbors I should have made an effort to meet years ago). Many of us had visiting friends and family, so they came along and everyone, but especially the children, blended effortlessly. As I had my young grandbabes in my watch, I retreated early, but with sleeping kids, a quite house and the backdoor open, I could hear lingering conversations and laughter for several hours, reminding me that the community spirit I was drawn to Chicago was alive and well in my own backyard.

The day after the block party I headed out to Laclede to yet another potluck, this one a housewarming for a delightful friend who was recently displaced from a rental she’d called home for more than 20 years. The place she found suits her to a tee, and we gathered to rejoice in her find and celebrate her new home with huckleberry chipotle chicken, mounds of sides and salads, assorted spirits and a lot of love.

Driving home from Laclede with Ryanne and talking about parties, I learned about the neighborhood block parties in Moscow. They take their festivities seriously, closing the street for dance parties, neighborhood parades and, of course, lots of food.

Block parties are allowed in Sandpoint, but Marty, the city clerk I spoke with, said she had never processed an application for one. Prices vary depending on the number of anticipated guests, number of blocks closed and length of the party. The application requires a first aid plan, a security plan, a cleanup plan and a discussion with someone in police administration (good luck with that, I left three voice mails). You can find the public assembly permit application at the city of Sandpoint’s website: http://cityofsandpoint.com.

Though the application process may sound daunting, you have to admit, a block party sounds real fun. Doesn’t it? What a great way to gather, love your neighbor and celebrate summer. Now, don’t forget how much I love a good block party! I’ll bring the Pesto Pasta Summer Salad, along with a vegetarian version.

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