Gate City United
Nashua celebrates community spirit at city block parties
By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Sunday News Correspondent |
September 21. 2013 8:40PM
Grace Roessling, 16, performs with The Label, an area band, during Saturday's block party festivities in Nashua. Kimberly Houghton (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/Union Leader Correspondent)
NASHUA - As the Gate City struggles with a recent influx in crime, residents stood united on Saturday to promote community spirit, kindness and companionship.
People from different walks of life and different parts of the city participated in the first Nashua Block Party, promising to be good neighbors while enjoying free food and entertainment.
"This is a beautiful event. It is so nice to see the community coming together," said Elizabeth LeMere. "I grew up here, so it is really nice to come back and see people I haven't seen in awhile."
As the economy continues to hurt many city residents, LeMere said it is so unusual - and refreshing - to have a free gathering for families to socialize and have some safe and healthy fun.
Four simultaneous block parties were held throughout various sections of the city, a collaborative effort organized by the city, Nashua Police Athletic League, Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire and Gate City Community Gardens.
"You can't beat it. We have free food, music and activities for kids - the three necessities for a party," said Shaun Nelson of the PAL
Ash Street closed
On Ash Street, the road was closed to motorists so that families could participate in the party, which included Mexican food, live entertainment from the band The Label, coloring activities and carnival games for the children.
"I think this is great," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said at the Tree Streets block party. "It is great for the community to get out before winter sets in, enjoy the nice weather and just have a good time."
Welcoming New Hampshire, a group that aims to educate the public about an immigrant community striving to be accepted, also attended the festivities.
"I think there is great participation today," said Janeth Orozco of Welcoming New Hampshire, while handing out literature about the integration efforts underway by the organization that hopes to foster a feeling of safety rather than an atmosphere of fear and mistrust.
That is what the four block parties were intended to do - get people out of their comfort zone, meet neighbors they might not know and get to understand what the community is all about, said organizers.
Chris Malloy of Community Events LLC helped spearhead the citywide block party.
"I've only heard legends and stories about Nashua's old block parties, and there seems to be a lot of nostalgia surrounding the gatherings," Malloy said. He is optimistic that the new block parties will become the fabric of local neighborhoods and what people will be talking about for years to come.
"We are optimistic this will take on a life of its own," he said, saying he hopes that individual neighborhoods will organize their own, smaller block parties after attending the citywide event.
In addition to the Ash Street block party downtown, the parties were held at Atherton Park, Kirkpatrick's Park and Nashua High School North.
Four of the major sponsors for the event were Pennichuck Corp., St. Joseph's Healthcare, the John J. Flatley Co. and Nashua Wallpaper.