Lynnhurst residents celebrate 50 years of neighborliness

A tight-knit community on Aldrich Avenue in Lynnhurst
A tight-knit community on Aldrich Avenue in Lynnhurst has held a block party every year since 1969. Photos by Christopher Shea

Block parties are a summer ritual for just about any community, and some neighbors in Lynnhurst have made this a staple of their block for generations, as residents of the 5000 block of Aldrich Avenue South have held a party to celebrate their neighborhood every year since 1969.

The all-day affair was started with the help of resident Sharron Johnson, who knocked on doors and asked nearby grocery stores for donations. Now, there’s an email list for everyone on the block, which simplifies the logistics of setting up the yearly event.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Johnson said.

A tight-knit community on Aldrich Avenue in Lynnhurst

Former block parties were known to have an Elvis impersonator, a snake and a papier-mache elephant. This year’s love-themed party on July 13 had a more traditional approach, starting with a morning meditation session followed by a bike parade and a game of pickleball.

“We have a fun, old-fashioned neighborhood,” resident Tom Helling said. “Lots of kids, lots of fun.” At one point, he said, there were 106 children on the block.

The party’s activities are not limited to those currently living on the block, as many former block residents are invited to join in on the fun, with many showing up to drink cocktails, to sing karaoke and, later in the night, to read love poems.

A tight-knit community on Aldrich Avenue in Lynnhurst

Today, the block party is just one of many events the neighborhood holds. In the fall, there is Blocktoberfest, which features beer. Then there’s the wintertime “Wine Around the Block,” where the adults on the block can enjoy appetizers, desserts and wine.

“Instead of whining about the winter, we wine around the block,” resident Sandy Puckett said.

Mostly, the purpose of these events is to celebrate the tight-knit community the block has managed to sustain for the past five decades.

A tight-knit community on Aldrich Avenue in Lynnhurst

“Sure we have the planes come overhead, but we have camaraderie,” Johnson said.

One year, half the block was without electricity, and neighbors strung a series of extension cords across the street.

In 2004, block resident Pia Sass was in Wisconsin practicing for the Iron Man triathlon and was severely injured by a passing vehicle. During the seven months she spent in rehab, neighbors took turns providing lunch and dinner every single day.

“It’s the most embracing block you can imagine,” Puckett said.