The Neighborhood Night Out and Block Party emptied downtown residential streets Thursday and brought students and residents together for music, food and a celebration of community.
The block party began at 5 p.m. and was held on the Hargraves Recreation Center baseball field. The event was directed toward students and non-students living in the Northside, Cameron-McCauley and Davie Circle neighborhoods.
“It’s a great event to connect the town of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the University,” said Aaron Bachenheimer, director of the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement at UNC.
Bachenheimer, a coordinator of the event, said the block party is part of the Good Neighbor Initiative, a cooperative effort planned by his office, the town of Chapel Hill, EmPOWERment Inc., the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and the Marian Cheek Jackson Center.
They hoped the event would build a more cohesive community by bringing together students and permanent residents living in the area, Bachenheimer said.
Meg McGurk, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, said the community has a unique blend of students and non-students most college towns lack.
“Seeing the students get involved with the older residents is a pretty powerful thing,” she said.
Erick Dowell, a senior biology student living in the area, attended the event for the first time this year.
He said he was initially drawn to the block party because he enjoyed similar events held in his neighborhood when he was younger. The involvement of community organizations also stood out to him, he said.
“I grew up in a neighborhood and we always had stuff like this, but we never had organizations like this come out,” Dowell said.
Many organizations — including Love Chapel Hill, the Aveda Institute, Habitat for Humanity and Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate — set up booths, led activities and handed out merchandise to participants.
“We always try to be invested in the community,” said Matt LeRoy, teaching pastor at Love Chapel Hill. “We’re a very community-focused church.”
The event also featured a bounce house, crafts and games geared toward children.
Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Town Council member Donna Bell and Police Chief Chris Blue also attended the event.
Kleinschmidt said the block party is a great event and has grown more successful over the years.
The organizers of the event also said they see a growing sense of community between students and non-students in the neighborhoods.
“The students who are involved in this have changed their behavior in the community,” said Linda Convissor, director of local relations at UNC.
“The ones who come and understand that how they live in the community makes a difference to the rest of the neighborhood really are changing things.”
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