Block out some time: Potlucks and progressive parties back in style

July 2010 Posted in Community

By Kathy Cook Hunter

I remember when progressive dinners were all the rage during the ’50s and ’60s. In subsequent years, however, I’ve rarely had the opportunity to be involved in that old-fashioned custom.

Folks were too busy for entertaining, it seemed.

Now progressive dinners are making a comeback, along with block parties. It’s noticeable that when people are in a different setting than usual, they are inclined to socialize and share their common interests.

Last summer, the our garden club president suggested we have a combination progressive dinner/garden tour. It was so much fun to be together in a social setting, enjoying food and enjoying each other’s gardens that we’ve already decided to continue it this year.

“I remember, growing up, the church we went to in Molalla did that, at least the adults did,” said Linda Daue, president of Silverton Garden Club. “That was in the ’60s; I have a friend who said she’d done it, too, during that era.”

Daue said she attended a block party in her neighborhood last summer.

“It was a really fun potluck,” she said. “The idea was getting to know your neighbors so you can watch out for each other’s homes.”

The usual progressive dinner plan goes like our garden club’s did: Three or four hosts agree to take part, each one serving one course of the meal at their home. Our club’s plan was to begin with appetizers, travel on to the main course (in our case, Mexican food); the last stop being for dessert. Club members brought appetizers and desserts, but the host at each home provided the entree and beverages.

People have come up with a number of ways to present a progressive dinner. Neighbors who live close might walk to each home. If alcohol is served and vehicles are necessary, a designated driver can be chosen. The group could stem from club or lodge members, a church Sunday school class, a political party or simply friends who share an interest in food.

As for block parties, in Silverton, the local police department must be consulted before a street can be closed in order to hold a party. The request must be put in writing and after the police chief reviews it, permission may or may not be granted.

A gathering was held last summer in their nearby neighbors’ yard, Silverton resident Luann Hays said. “We are the new kids on the block since we’ve lived here just two years. We could bring food and it was bring-your-own-beverage so the hosts weren’t liable. I found it easy to talk to people as the neighbors sat around and talked about what’s going on in the neighborhood, such as a burglary and who built when and where; chronological stuff.”

Hays enjoyed being able to put faces with houses and the cars that drive up and down the street.
The Hayses’ neighbor, Terry Caulfield, said the tradition began several years ago when local wells were going dry. They pulled together and got the city water system extended to their street.
“It took several years to get the documentation together,” Caulfield said. “That was our big neighborhood success and it drew us closer together.” The occasional neighborhood picnic at their home nowadays is the other favorable outcome.

In another part of town, a homeowners association held three events last year.

“We have lots of new people and wanted to form a sense of community,” Bette Stewart said. “We think it’s good to get to know our neighbors and what they do. Perhaps we can even help each other economically by doing business with each other.”

The association held a pizza party at a restaurant in April; an August picnic at the development’s park with kids’ games and food and a cider and cheese party in September.

“We focused specifically on the new people,” Stewart said. “In the future we want to do garden tours – and a book club is developing. We lead busy lives, and this is our way of keeping informed.”

There are many ideas for progressive dinners and block parties on the Internet – just Google “block party ideas” or “progressive dinners.”

Or try asking your neighbors!

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