Block Party Gets Bigger Every Year

Merry-go-round And Moon Bounce Give Neighborhood Kids One More Day Of Fun

August 23, 2009|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,

The first day of school is a little more than a week away for 11-year-old Molik Hylton, and he readily admits he has no desire to reopen the books. He will, however, be prepared to do so with a new notebook, a fresh haircut and one final day of fun, courtesy of a block party Saturday in his Northwest Baltimore neighborhood.

"I don't want to go," said Molik, who will be a fifth-grader at Arlington Elementary/Middle School. "But this helps a little bit."

The eight-hour party in the 4000 block of W. Belvedere Ave. was sponsored by eight local businesses that provided food, haircuts and school supplies to about 100 kids in attendance. It was the third year organizers put on the event, and the kids say it keeps getting bigger and better.

A 20-foot-inflatable slide, a merry-go-round, a dunking booth and a moon bounce were all new this year. Krystal Turner, 13, who is going to be in the seventh grade at Arlington, said kids start to talk up the party midway through summer.

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I can't wait," she said.

Organizers say the party was also held to raise awareness for a Forest Park woman who disappeared Oct. 28.

Mia Lynn Nichols, 27, of the 3900 block of W. Forest Park Ave., has not been seen since she left her job at Volunteers for America in the 4600 block of E. Monument St.

Duane "Shorty" Davis said he knows the family and helped create a yellow flier with a picture of the woman and an offer of an unspecified reward. In between speaking about Nichols, Davis helped set up for the party and cooked all the food, which he estimated to be about 400 hamburgers, 800 hot dogs and 15 slabs of ribs.

Davis, who owns a barbecue business, said he and the other companies - a car wash, shoe store and bail bondsman - offered to provide food and entertainment.

"Look around," Davis said. "We're dying out here. And what are our options? We need to pull together and be a community. I'm trying to be that person."

Block parties, which gained popularity in inner-city neighborhoods across the country during the 1970s, are a summertime institution in Baltimore, with several communities blocking off a section of road in all parts of the city.

In many respects, adults say, they got just as much out of this as the children, nearly all of whom were younger than 13.

Paula Phillips, 45, has lived on the block for four years and been to the two previous parties. She spoke of the event as though it were the social event of the season.

"The kids can't wait for it every year," Phillips said. "And, really, I can't either."

Stacey Jones brought her sons, 2 and 12, outside for the entertainment.

Jones served as a de facto monitor for the inflatable slide, and as she watched child after child rip off their shoes, scurry up the ladder and speed down the slide, she spoke of how this would be the closest many of these kids will come to an amusement park.

"I've taken my kids to Six Flags but parents might not have the money to get them there," she said. "So ... this could serve as a smaller version. And you know, if the adults could do it, we'd be sliding ourselves, but we're a little too big."

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