Block party season fast approaching

Neighbourhood gatherings foster community spirit in Oak Bay

Denise de Montreuil shows off the trophy (detail

Denise de Montreuil shows off the trophy (detail

Summer is the season for a lot of things, including  barbecues, camping, and lying on the beach.

It’s also the time of year when block party season kicks into full gear in communities all over Vancouver Island, and Oak Bay is no exception.

Denise de Montreuil has lived on Byron Street since 1993. Neighbours hosted a block party on the street the year before and it’s been an annual tradition since.

For de Montreuil, it’s the perfect opportunity to build a stronger community.

“It’s a chance to get to know our neighbours and talk about what’s important to us,” she said. “But most of all it’s just a lot of fun.”

The Byron Street party is held on Canada Day and has been attended by up to 60 people some years. Each year a different block resident takes on hosting duties, which generally involves choosing a theme, sending out invitations and planning the day’s activities.

This year’s theme is ‘Canadian wildlife.’

The theme is important, because this party features a parade as its centrepiece.

“We dress up according to the theme, which usually means making something up based on what you have lying around on the day of the party,” de Montreuil laughed.

Oak Bay is somewhat of a block party hot spot. The relatively small community was host to 15 different parties in the summer of 2010 and Oak Bay council has already approved road closures for five happening early this summer. Some, like the Byron Street party, are annual events, while others come and go with the passing years.

Ed Walker is not sure how long he and his Pacific Avenue neighbours have been putting on their Canada Day block party, but he estimates at least six or seven years. Though their festivities are a bit more low-key than those on Byron Street, he feels these types of gatherings are essential to ever-changing blocks like the one on which he resides.

“We’ve had a changeover the last few years in terms of who lives here,” he said, “and it’s a good way to get to know the new people.”

Unlike the parading residents of Byron Street, the Pacific Avenue crew don’t have much in the way of a formal program, but they still relish the chance to enjoy each other’s company.

“We do some barbecuing, sit around in the shade, and just chin wag a bit,” Walker said.

As more young families choose to make Oak Bay their home, the parties are a great way for children to make new friends. “The young kids get a kick out of it,” de Montreuil said.