Block Party; Community event draws crowd despite looming threat of rain
Hundreds, if not thousands, gathered on 1st Avenue South for the eighth annual Jamestown Community Block Party on Thursday, despite the looming threat of rain.
The Block Party is meant to welcome University of Jamestown freshmen to town and integrate them into the community. The freshmen are required by the university to attend, and for biology major Brady Hoggarth, who’s lived in Jamestown for 14 years, this was his first time attending.
“It’s pretty spectacular,” he said. “I feel like for those 14 years it would have been nice to have come here. It’s really nice; a lot of cool events.”
Gary Van Zinderen is the UJ dean of students and co-chair of the Community University Committee along with Lisa Hicks, Executive Director of the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce. The committee organizes the Block Party, which was the sixth for Van Zinderan.
“The weather hasn’t been as idyllic as we’d like it, but I’m happy people have still shown up, the booths have shown up, our freshman class just showed, so people arrived,” he said. “The weather held off, so I’m excited. Our sponsors have come through again: Our Jamestown Downtown Association, the chamber. All of our diehards have been so wonderful for us.”
Van Zinderen said organizers had been watching the weather all day and “crossing our fingers.”
“It’s going to work out just fine, and we’re going to have another great year,” he said.
About 100 booths dotted the east and west sides of the street as businesses, churches and other organizations greeted students and residents alike. One booth was occupied by North Dakotans Against Measure 1, and NDAM1 organizer Molly McLain of Fargo. McLain said this was her second time attending the Block Party. Her first was when she was the artist in residence at The Arts Center in 2012.
“I think it’s great that (community) people are out and engaging the youth; that’s awesome,” she said.
The UJ Nursing Students Association occupied another booth on the next block, promoting its hands-only CPR initiative. Senior nursing major Nick Crannell, who came to Jamestown as a freshman four years ago from his home 40 minutes north of Los Angeles, said the Block Party was a great experience when he was a freshman and has been back every year since.
“When you first come as a freshman you don’t know what the town has to offer, especially being from out of state,” Crannell said. “I think it’s just a good opportunity to get connected, to know what services are available … With the school bringing everyone down here — all your classmates — you don’t feel like you’re lost in the crowd.”
Freshmen Ryan DeSpain, an exercise science major from Boise, Idaho, and Anna Naylor, a Jimmies women’s wrestling team member from San Jose, Calif., both said the party was a good opportunity to get off campus.
“I think it’s pretty cool because we’ve been kind of secluded right now up at the university, so we’re getting down here and getting more familiar with the town,” DeSpain said.
Naylor said it was good to know what services are available in town.
“I think it’s interesting because we can see what all is down here, like the chiropractic center and all the stuff I didn’t really know was here,” she said.
Despite the weather, and the Jimmies season-opening football game against Valley City State University being scheduled on the same night, Van Zinderen said he was happy with the turnout.
“This doesn’t happen in most towns,” he said. “This is a very special thing that happens here, and I think it’s just very unique and indicative of the spirit of the community and the university.”
Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org