Community Block Party draws thousands to downtown Jamestown
The event welcomes new University of Jamestown students to the community and is also open to the public.
JAMESTOWN – Thousands of people took to downtown Jamestown on Wednesday, Aug. 24, as the community welcomed new University of Jamestown students at the annual Community Block Party.
“Like this community always does, everybody shows up in droves and it’s so exciting to see thousands of people coming to support really the whole community, not just our new students,” said Dustin Jensen, UJ vice president of student affairs. “It’s exciting to see just people wanting to be here to support kids so it’s really fun as an institution to watch the community come together and do this.”
University students came down en masse wearing UJ-orange-colored T-shirts and ventured into a few blocks downtown where vendors were set up to give out food and other items. But the event is also open to the public and many turned out for the event.
Aiden Cornell, a junior at UJ, said the Community Block Party is a great way for the community to reach out to all the new students to let them know what’s available in Jamestown. He noted there is lots of food at the event and students learn about all the businesses and the discounts that are offered to them.
When Cornell first attended the block party, he said he found a bunch of booths with businesses he'd never seen before. He said he even tried a couple of new restaurants because of the event.
“It’s all about the students and welcoming them,” he said. “I think it’s awesome that Jamestown provides this because not a lot of towns do this.”
Levi Anderson checked out the booths with his sons on Wednesday.
“I think it’s a really nice deal for people that are new to town to see what the community’s all about and to touch base with some of the vendors that we have here, some of the local businesses,” he said.
Marcella Lange and Kevin Metzger, financial advisers of Thrivent, were serving hot dogs and hamburgers along with handing out T-shirts and other items at their booth. Dakota Anglers was represented at the same booth, raffling off T-shirts made with Dakota Anglers’ name in UJ colors.
“Part of Thrivent’s mission is giving back, doing some community engagement, things like that and so we just decided we’re going to donate some food and try to get to know some more people around here,” Lange said. “Obviously, it’s always nice if you can find somebody who might need your services but that’s not the point of it necessarily, we’re just here to kind of be part of the community.”
Bonnie Page brought her granddaughter, Mikayah, 8, to the block party. She said her granddaughter likes being around people.
As for Mikayah, she likes that at the block party “You get a whole bunch of stuff,” she said.
“It’s just a nice thing for the community,” Page said. “Every year, it seems like there’s more.”
At several booths, you could spin a wheel or try some other type of contest and get a prize, such as a bottle of water or a shirt. Bags to carry freebies, mugs and other types of merchandise were given away. And there was plenty of food to try ranging from hamburgers to hotdogs, donuts, cookies, sloppy joes, pickles on a stick, candy and more.
Over at the Cash Wise booth, Sheree Devine, cake decorator, was one of the employees handing out paper bags with ramen noodles, pretzels and a fruit snack along with a $5 coupon.
Sarah O’Heron, assistant store manager, said Cash Wise is a regular participant in the event.
“We love being out in the community, we love seeing everybody,” she said. “We get to see a lot of our regular customers. Just love being in the community and involved.”
Easter Seals Goodwill of North Dakota was giving away water, candy and pens along with brochures and drawings for gift cards.
“We’re trying to promote the people we support,” said Morgan Foster, senior program coordinator. “We provide services with people with disabilities and also for people who are in their homes and need that help with daily living skills, bathing, cleaning, meal prep. So we’re just trying to get our name out there and get some good qualified applicants.”
She said they work around people’s schedules so they were hoping to get some college students who want a part-time job to give back to the community.
“I enjoy seeing the people and just getting our name out there,” Foster said.
At the Seventh-day Adventist Church booth, vegetarian sloppy joes were being served up and workers were handing out literature.
MarieAnne Vis, a board member of the church, said they’ve been participating for some time in the event.
“We like to witness to the people, to share our message with them,” she said. “We do believe the Lord is coming soon and we’re just trying to help the people know the times we’re living in. Give out some literature on prophecy and just to get them ready for the Lord.”
Jeannie Schmidt, human resources director at Ave Maria, said they were giving college students a T-shirt while also handing out cookies in celebration of their 60th year. She said they were getting the word out that they have new starting wages for CNAs, good benefits and “family fun.”
Meghan Ellingson, a senior at UJ from Otsego, Minnesota, said attending the Community Block Party is one of her favorite activities about welcome week at the university.
“It’s just a time when we can all enjoy the community and come down here together and then you see all the new freshmen faces and all the returning students,” she said. “It’s really fun just seeing the whole community.”
Jensen said the event is fun for the new students who are from out of state to see the welcoming North Dakota atmosphere.
“I tell them numerous times that people will ask you how you are doing and actually want to engage and that’s different,” he said. It’s not the norm everywhere.”
He said the event drew 125 booths consisting of different businesses, organizations and agencies.
“Thank you to a ton of sponsors,” Jensen said. “Thank you to everybody who showed up and thank you to the community for coming out to support everyone.”