St. Albert celebrates 150 block parties

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St. Albertans love a good party with their neighbours.

When Marlene Bykowski moved into her home on Hart Place 27 years ago, she wouldn’t have guessed that she would one day be crowned as the 150th registrant for St. Albert’s block party program.

On Saturday she joined residents who donned red and white as they listened to Mayor Nolan Crouse deliver a congratulatory word for breaking the city record.

“I was very excited,” she laughs. “We had no idea that we would have been the 150th block party.”

Last November the city had created an initiative to hit 150 block parties to celebrate the 150th anniversary of confederation.

She says neighbours on the block boast strong relationships, often planning Christmas events among each other and the occasional block-wide summer get-together.

Fellow resident Maria Russell says she was surprised to get a notice announcing they had been crowned number 150.

“I was quite excited about the whole thing. It’s nice to get together and be recognized and that’s what St. Albert is about,” she says. “I thought it was great that they would take the time to come.”

Both Russell and Bykowski were among the first residents in the cul-de-sac. At that time houses were just starting to be built. Russell says when she moved to St. Albert 27 years ago, she immediately felt a connection.

“As we dove into St. Albert it had a total different feeling,” she says. “It’s like feeling walking into a home and it welcomes you.”

At the block party officials cut a sheet cake stenciled with the Canada 150 logo while residents flipped burgers provided by the Neighbourhood Watch Association.
Cindy de Bruijn, who works in neighbourhood development at the city, says the block party program started in 2008. Prior to that date block parties had been organized organically among residents.

Now every block party registered is counted and is given food and buns for a barbecue.

Last year the city had 132 block parties and this year it is set to exceed the target and hit 157 block parties.

Rhonda Egar-Lee, Canada 150 coordinator and ambassador for the city, says she was excited by the large number of parties this year.

“This was an initiative that we put forward to celebrate Canada’s 150,” she says. “It was great to see the community respond to Canada’s 150 with having over 150 registered block parties.

The ambassador is now looking forward to St. Albert’s first ever city-wide block party. Taking place on Sept. 8 along St. Anne Street, the event will feature live music, bouncy castles, street hockey and chalk competitions.

Egar-Lee says plans for the party get bigger and better every day, and if all goes well, there could even be a celebrity appearance.

“We’re trying to get Rick Mercer here and we’re crossing our fingers,” she says.

Residents have taken their petition to Twitter, calling on Rick Mercer to come to the city-wide block party. Egar-Lee says she has sent a formal invitation to producers of the Rick Mercer Report, but will have to wait until closer to the date to hear the final verdict.

“We put it out on Twitter to raise excitement and get the word out,” she says, while admitting that the tweets were also a way to put a little pressure on the producers of the show.

She says she’s most excited to celebrate the community and to let people know that they made history.

“157 registered block parties is something to be pretty proud of in the community,” she says.

The city block party will take place from 5:30 until 9 p.m. For more information visit: https://stalbert.ca/exp/canada150/projects-events/city-wide-downtown-block-party.

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Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.