What Happened To Block Parties?

Richard Bailey. Getty Images.

UPI- A Nebraska high school said it broke a Guinness World Record when more than 1,000 students participated in a water balloon toss event.

Officials at Omaha Central High School said students were arranged into pairs on the school's football field and played a round of water balloon toss, which involves the participants throwing the balloon back and forth and stepping back after each successful throw until the balloon bursts.

I used this story about a Nebraska high school tossing water balloons to pose a question about one of the best past times of my child hood… block parties. Now for those unfamiliar a block party was when all the people on your street chipping in together and organizing a party. There was a lot that went into these. 

First off, any respectable block party was in the summer. The latest ones were into September, but the best ones were in the summer. you would have to get interest from the neighbors. Good blocks usually had a majority of families with a ton of kids playing out in the street. The more families the better the block party. There will always be a few old curmudgeons who stay in their house and have nothing to do with the party. But for the most part everyone still chips in.  The street would have to be closed off. Everyone would agree to move their cars. Again … there may be the stubborn asshole who refuses to do it, but usually everyone comes together and works as a unit. 

In terms of what you are actually chipping in for, there's usually an obnoxiously loud DJ, face painting for the kids, inflatable rides, cotton candy, the ice cream man to stay there for a few hours, in some cases food, and maybe a magician etc. Everyone comes out and sets up chairs or tents, or their own grill, or bartender, and invites over other friends and posts up literally from noon to midnight (sometimes later) and has a grand old time. 

As a teenager it was literally like something you scouted out as a way to hang out and meet new people. "Oh Bridget is having a block party? Sick that means all the girls from St. Sister Mary Mother Of Jesus will be there." If you were lucky you snuck a few cold ones. Or met a girl and made out down the block etc. I once went to a block party in high school in Brooklyn where my friend had a younger brother the same age as my brother. We got dropped off and went our separate ways and then met back up at the end of the night when it was time for my dad to pick us up. About 20 minutes before pick up time I walked towards his group to find him a few beers deep grinding on some girl. Par for the course at a block party. I think it hit him then that he was in jeopardy of being caught buzzed and asked for advice on what to do. I told him keep his speaking to a minimum and that dad would probably take us for a pizza which would help the cause of sobering up. Felt like a right of passage as an older brother. Also feel like everyone reading this has had some kind of similar experience being tuned up at a block party. A tale as old as time.  

It may have been great as a teenager, but as a kid it was even better, and in my personal opinion it was for the games. Each block had different contests, some more than others, but the usual suspects were the egg carry in a spoon, tug of war, simon sez, and my personal favorite the water balloon toss. That game ruled. All time competition of athleticism. Everyone starts like 3 feet away and then progressively moves further and further away. If your balloon pops you lose. It took skill to play this game and survive. If you squeezed it too hard it popped on the throw, if you didn't have soft hands when you caught it you would smash it. Big time skill. Kids got super into it, if they lost they would cry. As the field windled down the groups would have to throw one at a time with the whole block watching you. Felt like being under a fly ball in Game 7 of The World Series. All time memories as a kid. Then you would watch the adult water balloon toss and see your coaches and uncles etc talking shit to each other. 

Somewhere along the way, block parties either just stopped or I stopped seeing them. I think it's become a thing of the past. Maybe because neighborhoods change so much, or people can't be bothered. or people just hate their neighbors. Whatever the case, block parties are dead. It sucks if you ask me. Was an all time day growing up and one of the only times an entire block really came together in unity. Look at some of these goombas on Staten Island and tell me this isn't a community bonding. 


I know my mind works in weird ways that I see water balloon toss world record and immediately think block parties, but that's how it goes. I think I stated my case why younger generations need events like these as part of their way growing up. I still can't figure out what happened to them, but I really do wish they would come back. There needs to be 1 person in the country or at least the City of New York who becomes the head of block parties and vows to bring them back.