Neighbors in the 700 block of South Taylor Avenue held their first block party of the summer Aug. 22 without many of the block party mainstays — no inflatable bounce houses, no potluck. Kids ate popsicles and some adults drank beer brought from home. 

To keep in line with Oak Park block party restrictions while still enjoying the camaraderie of a neighborhood gathering, neighbors opted to have a small concert.

“With the restrictions given, people are able to have block parties but again, there wasn’t that much we could do, so a concert I thought would be fun,” said Joan Suchomel, who hired singer-songwriter Jon Troast for the party. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had one here.”

Musicians played as neighbors sat in chairs or danced safely apart from each other. 

“I just love that the kids are having a good time,” said Suchomel, who has lived on the block for 23 years. 

Block parties are a tradition in Oak Park that feeds into the overall feeling of community shared and appreciated by neighbors.

“It’s a lot about building community and getting to know your neighbors,” said Suchomel. “It’s just a time to get everybody outside and if you don’t know each other, you get to know each other.”

Carl Spight, who has lived on the corner of the block since 1987, also performed at the block party, playing Afro-Latin music on his set of timbales. 

“It’s a beautiful day,” said Spight. “And everybody’s relaxed. I think everybody just wants to be out and among others.”

In his years living in the neighborhood, Spight has seen the neighborhood evolve, watching children grow up. Kids, he believes, know how to have a good time. 

“They always manage to find a way to have fun no matter the situation,” said Spight. 

Angie Kuna attended the block party with her husband and three young children. Kuna wasn’t sure the block would have a party this summer.

“Our first one got canceled in June,” said Kuna. “It got pushed off to September.”

Being able to have the August block party, Kuna said, was a fun way to end the summer. 

“We have a really special block,” said Kuna, who has lived there with her family for just over six years. 

While she said her kids missed having a bouncy house, they still had a great time at the block party. 

“We do have those every year, so it’s a little bit of a bummer,” said Kuna. “I think they’re kind of used to the changes with COVID, so they just make their own fun.”

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