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Block Party expanding; committee seeking more sign-ups for block party

University of Jamestown students and community members participate in the annual Community Block Party in this 2013 file photo. Sun file photo / John M. Steiner

Party time is drawing near for the University of Jamestown and locals too, as the annual Community Block Party continues to expand and attract new participants.

“We’re always looking for booths,” said Lisa Hicks, executive director of the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce, part of the committee organizing the Block Party.

The event is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, in downtown Jamestown.

The Block Party is intended to give UJ freshmen a chance to see the Jamestown community, by closing some of the streets in the downtown area and filling them with booths featuring local businesses, charities, churches and other groups.

With plenty of free food, job postings, coupons and activities for adults and kids, the Block Party attracts multitudes of people every year.

To accommodate more booths, the street closure is being extended to the railroad tracks on First Avenue and a portion of 1st Street South, in front of Gun & Reel Sports and the All Vets Club.

“Last year we had them in the parking lot, almost,” Hicks said.

“Right in the intersection,” agreed Gary Van Zinderen, dean of students at UJ, who is also on the committee organizing the event. “And we needed more room.”

So far, 40 groups have signed up for the Block Party. That doesn’t sound like much, but according to committee members, every available spot is usually filled, even though organizations are limited to a maximum of two booth spaces.

Booths are free, and about 11 feet wide.

Most likely, all the booths will be spoken for by the end of August, Van Zinderen said. Last year, there were 102 spots and all were spoken for with five organizations on the waiting list before the date of the Block Party.

The event costs about $4,000 total, which helps pay for name badges, printing, postage, permits for closing the streets and more, Hicks said.

“We keep everything local, and people have been very generous,” Van Zinderen said, explaining that generally only businesses with a local presence can participate.

Those who arrive at the Block Party early enough during its open hours can likely get a free meal for their trouble, as many of the businesses give out freebies during the event.

Returning favorites Cavendish Farms hands out free, freshly-made french fries at its booth, for example, and R.M. Stoudt gives away hot dogs.

“I want to say we gave out at least 700 last year, and we run out every year,” said Tara Kapp, business development center coordinator for R.M. Stoudt. “… we’ve been involved since the Block Party began.”

Stoudt wants to be involved in anything benefiting the community and hopes to introduce the business to the college students, welcome them to Jamestown and let them know service is available for their vehicles, too, Kapp said.

“It’s just a really fun way to promote the community, to get involved with the community and to meet the college students,” she said.

Some new businesses have already signed up for the party as well, such as Body Bliss Aesthetics.

The hair removal and skin care business opened in June and will be bringing its laser to do lip, chin and armpit hair reductions on site.

“We are signed up because we want to get the word out that we are a new business in town … ” said Crystal Krapp, who owns Body Bliss along with Tina Bear. “We’re going to be doing mini-sessions with our laser.”

Krapp has never been to the Block Party before.

“We’re going to get out there and just start helping people,” she said.

People who arrive after some of the freebies have run out, or those who simply crave something a bit different, will still be able to purchase food from vendors offering brats, ice cream and similar fair-like fare.

A dunk tank, inflatable games, a barrel train and other activities are also planned.

“It’s a street fair atmosphere,” Hicks said.

Businesses and clubs use the fair for a variety of purposes, including giving away samples and promoting services but also recruiting new employees and inviting students to join them.

The Block Party is also intended to help Jamestown and the surrounding area retain UJ students after they graduate, Hicks said.

“If they feel invested in Jamestown, they’re going to stay here,” she added.

More than 250 freshmen will be required to participate, but many students from other classes will join the fun as well, Van Zinderen said.

“No matter what year they are, they all come down,” he said. “… this is the most popular event of our welcome week for new students.”

“And I think it’s one of the biggest events for the community. We’re looking forward to it,” Hicks said.

“It’s going to be a blast!” Van Zinderen added.

To sign up for a booth or help sponsor the event, visit and click “Community.” Anyone with questions may call 252-3467, ext. 5563, or 252-4830.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at