Aaron Bachenheimer, director of fraternity and sorority life and community involvement at UNC said the block party has occurred annually since 2007-08.
“The purpose of this event is really for student and non-student residents to come together and get to know one another, so we can have healthy and strong communities and so people can be good neighbors to one another,” said Bachenheimer.
The event kicked off at 5 p.m. with a neighborhood walk around several city blocks led by the mayors of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The walkers returned to be greeted by Rameses and free food provided by local sponsors and businesses.
“It’s about celebrating neighborhood and community,” said Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger. “This is a wonderful mixed community of UNC folks, longtime residents, students — right in the heart of downtown.”
Also included at the event were inflatable bounce houses, crafts stations, games and tables where residents and students could learn about community organization. Several local groups also performed before the crowd.
Staff from the Chapel Hill Police Department and other Orange County law enforcement agencies participated in the event.
Kenneth Lennon, a community services officer for the Chapel Hill Police Department said the block party brings the department and community closer together.
“It’s something I kind of look forward to every year. I’ve been here 16 years and I think the event gets better each time that we do it,” said Lennon.
He also talked about the importance of events like this due to the recent events involving police departments across the nation.
“I think it shows that we are human and that we enjoy things just like everybody else,” Lennon said. “Just being here and seeing all the people come out and the different faces, it shows how we can work together if we just give it a chance.”
Bachenheimer said the block party is part of a larger initiative aimed at promoting community between residents and students. Before the start of classes, volunteers for the Good Neighbor Initiative knocked on about 1,200 doors to inform residents about what the community expectations are for living off campus.
Louise Goodfellow, a UNC senior living on North Street, learned about the event through a friend.
“This summer I worked for a community development nonprofit and just realized how important it is to know the people who live next door to you so you can look out for each other and depend on each other,” Goodfellow said.
Lynne Hicks, a homeowner in Chapel Hill, came out for her fifth block party.
“What keeps me coming back is just being able to communicate with people that are associated with the University,” she said. “I think these sorts of events are great.”