Good music, good food, ice cold beer and some family friendly games. Sounds like the makings of good old-fashioned block party.
While Riverfest festivities kick-off on Thursday, July 13 in Pioneer Park, Wednesday, July 12, is all about the downtown Monticello Block Party.
“It’s the unofficial kickoff to Riverfest,” said Marcy Anderson, Monticello Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s executive director. “And it’s really well received.”
Since the Chamber became the official hosts of the block party three years ago – previously it was run by a few area businesses – nearly 1,000 people descend upon the corner of Third Street and Walnut Street to grab a bite to eat, play some games and celebrate the Monticello community.
“It’s just a gathering place,” said Mari Lou McCormic, a RiverWood Bank-Monticello employee and block party volunteer. “And each year it gets a little better.”
Starting at 4:30 p.m., volunteers from area businesses will run a variety of booths geared toward kids.
McCormic and several RiverWood Bank volunteers run the balloon booth. She estimates the bank hands out close to 400 blue balloons each year for free.
“It’s amazing to see,” she said. “Looking out into the crowd and seeing this massive quantity of blue balloons.”
Jessica Rosten of All4Kids clothing store has also been a longtime block party volunteer. She helps with the minnow races.
“There are eight lanes,” she said. “And once we get enough people to race, they can choose their minnow and we let them race. The kids get a big kick out of it.”
Other games include the frozen T-shirt contest – where participants have to try and thaw a frozen T-shirt the fastest – a cake walk, inflatables and other carnival style games.
“A lot of these things were part of my childhood,” Anderson said. “And we want to be able to keep that tradition alive for the next generation.”
Anderson said the main focus of the block party is to keep it affordable. Most games and activities will be under $5 with most activities right around the $1 mark (the minnow races are 50 cents a minnow).
“We receive tons of donations (for free prizes) from the business community to give back to the kids,” she said.
And that also includes food.
“We have a really great relationship with Cub Foods,” Anderson said.
That relationship has blossomed to include donations of about 10 watermelons to the block party.
Anderson said volunteers cut and serve free watermelon slices to participants.
Throughout the event, Anderson said the Lions Club will be serving beer. Live music will be performed by Jazmin and The Gents, a band new to the block party.
The block party runs until 9 p.m.
“It’s just such a relaxed environment to come and play or come and just hang out,” McCormic said. “And that’s the fun part.”
Anderson said this year will be the final year the Monticello Block Party will be hosted downtown. Next year, the event is moving to West Bridge Park.
“It will overlook the river and be a lot more comfortable,” Anderson said. “There’s a big gazebo for the band to play in. And there will just be more space.”
But while this may be the last year downtown, organizers and volunteers are determined to make it the best block party yet.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity for this community,” McCormic said. “It’s an awesome time to see people. And I’m privileged to be a part of it.”
Vicki Ikeogu is a freelance reporter for the Monticello Times