BEDFORD – The air hums with music: the chatter of families mingling with the hard punch of speakers at the end of the block. This quarter mile of residential road, normally devoid of activity no matter the hour, is teeming with life. Children race the length of the closed-off street, leaping into emergency vehicles opened for display and just as suddenly evacuating them in favor of the cotton candy machine that marks the start of their journey. Their parents, ever watchful, sneak in conversations with police officers and city officials as they tend to the jubilant circuit. This is a Bedford Block Party.

“Growing up, we had block parties. The neighborhoods were more united and more friendly with each other than they are now… people just keep to themselves these days,” said Kayla, a resident and one of the aforementioned chaperones. She and the children in her care spent the evening sampling food from local vendors who had gathered alongside nonprofit organizations and city leadership to host the event.

She was not alone in observing that the American Routine, much like the American Dream, seems to have shifted in recent years. Now now dominated by emails, smart phones and skepticism, it lacks a certain human touch. But for one night, tucked away in a neighborhood near the city’s activity center, that touch of humanity was alive and thriving.

“It’s neat to see this neighborhood come alive again,” said Jennifer, an employee at Central Junior High who grew up near the host street. “I think everybody is stuck behind a phone or stuck behind a TV, so this gets them out. We had the perfect weather for it tonight, too.”

The brainchild of Bedford Community Affairs Committee head Sal Caruso, these block parties are designed to make Bedford feel like home in a world that increasingly treats home as a place to stop between work and other commitments. Caruso, a native of New York, proposed the program last year in the hopes of providing his new home with a sample of the city culture he picked up in his mother state.

“What I wanted to do in Bedford – which is exactly what’s happening – is to bring all of the faith based organizations and business leaders from the community and City Hall [together]. The whole concept was to bring the city to your neighborhood. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing,” he said. “This is the third one; each one has had about 200 residents.”

“To see folks get together and meet each other and have a fun time, that’s always a good thing.”

In the last year and a half, block parties have set the stage for longtime neighbors to speak to each other for the first time, longtime residents to shake hands with a Mayor they’d never met and citizens to spend time with city officials and employees – from police and politicians to waste management to animal control – that had been little more than a job description until the unorthodox invasion of the city by the city.

“In our society today, we’re all on the go with work and school and all kinds of things we have going on. So it’s sometimes hard for people to be at home enough to know your neighbor, but I think this is a wonderful opportunity that the city can provide to let people come out and have a great time in a great environment on their own streets and get to know each other and enjoy what we offer,” said Bedford Mayor Jim Griffin.

“You don’t really know what citizen’s questions might be, related to our services. It’s great to have everybody out here so that they can talk to them; to put a person and a face behind what they know is a service going on in our city. They’re real people, doing a great job for each other out here in the community and making our city stronger and better. It’s great to have them out here.”

Certainly, there could be no questions left unanswered after the festivities had concluded. Citizens were free to approach their leaders in the comfort and excitement of their own neighborhood, with the city and its allies providing nearly all the fun. For all the hot dogs and lemonades dispensed, all the popcorn handed out and the games played, however, the most incredible thing was far less quantifiable.

“The city is the buildings. The city is the services. But the community is the people,” said Steve Farco, Bedford City Council Place 4. “Bringing the people together with faith-based organizations, with businesses, with our city services and residents really builds that community together.”

Building something together? That sounds like something 6 Stones can get behind! In fact, we were behind it: at the very end of the street, alongside our partners from faith-based and corporate entities alike, handing out the cotton candy. Because we love to be part of the magic when men and women put their hands and hearts together to get things done.

“I think it’s awesome to see people rally together for the community and do good things for the community,” Jennifer said. “The more we can see people working together, the better it is for everybody.”

We couldn’t agree more.


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