Annie Weeks loves spending time with her neighbours. She lives on one of the most remarkable streets in Oak Bay, after all, so residents hardly need an excuse to celebrate – but they’ll take one anyway.
People around the district are blocking off their final summer weekends to celebrate with their friends next door, as block party season enters its last month.
This year, Oak Bay will celebrate 28 block parties throughout the area; up from 20 parties in 2012. And although the mayor, police and fire officials aim to make it out to every celebration, the best thing for residents is realizing you live beside people you like.
“We think this is a very special street and so many interesting people live here,” says Weeks, who resides on Hamiota Street. “We enjoy these parties more every year and it just makes it a great experience to live here. We all love each other.”
Block parties have become a tradition in Oak Bay. Six parties were recently approved by council for this coming week alone.
“We, as a council, encourage block parties to be held as often as possible,” Mayor Nils Jensen says. “It really builds that neighbourly feel, and I try to make it out to all of them. It’s a great community-building opportunity for people who live on the block.”
For Hamiota residents, a long-standing tradition will be carried out where one side of the street is delegated to bring a savoury dish while the other side provides dessert.
All neighbours bring their own meat to grill and picnic tables lined the centre of the street to create a communal feel. Thanks to traffic barriers provided by the municipality, kids will be out playing street hockey while parents mingle.
More than just sharing food and laughter, Jensen views the parties as an opportunity for residents to find out how neighbours are doing, and learn about any safety issues cropping up.
“Most of us don’t see people enough these days,” he says. “It’s such an important time to catch up on people’s lives, find out how the kids are doing, as well as discuss any issues that are coming up in the neighbourhood.”
To address those very issues, Block Watch parties – one happens on Burdick Avenue on Sept. 1, and another on Epworth Street on Sept. 7 – give residents and safety supervisors a chance to interact with officials.
Though only one Block Watch gathering is required each year, many streets host more than one in an effort to keep up the camaraderie. The parties are attended by police and fire department representatives, who share news about crime or safety trends with Block Watch members.
“It’s really an opportunity for education and for letting people know what we are seeing on the whole in Oak Bay,” said Deputy Chief Const. Kent Thom. “Plus, it gives a chance for the kids to check out the police cars and see how everything works. We all have a lot of fun.”