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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Recipe for a Block Party

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Belgrave block party - music
My block is having a party! Right here, right now. Outside my front door children are super-soaking each other, running through sprinklers, and selling lemonade. The traffic calming infrastructure is doubling as a volley-ball net and lawn chairs are filling the street as people crowd around to hear a choir of little girls with flowers in their hair.

Grown ups are garage-sale-ing and swapping bevvies, and a massive BBQ mounted on a bike has appeared a little way down the block.

belgrave block party water fight

6 weeks ago we got a slip in the mail announcing the date. I was so thrilled that I got in touch with Sophie, a mother of 2 who lives across the street and organized the event to coincide with her son’s birthday. She gave the the low down on how to make it happen.

She applied for a permit with the NDG-CDN Sports & Loisirs department 2 months in advance (the borough asks for 50 days to evaluate the application). The borough requires that 3 conditions be met in order to insure the event:

  1. People must be present guard the barriers at either end of the block at all times. They are responsible for moving the barriers in case emergency vehicles need to access the site
  2. Alcohol and BBQs have to stay off the street but may consumed on private lawns, balconies and walkways.
  3. No vendors are permitted (but garage sales and a kids’ lemonade stand seem to be just fine.)

This morning the borough dropped off barriers to block the street to traffic as well as a permit slip which she has posted on her front door. A borough rep also passes every 2 hours to keep an eye on things. If all goes well, we can have up to 1 block party per season – that’s 4 times per year. Maybe I’ll organize the winter carnival version…

In the meantime, I decided it was a perfect occasion to break out the Fender Blender – a bicycle powered smoothie maker – and meet some peops from up and down the street. I have just traded a smoothie for a red cowboy hat. Hot.
belgrave block party - play ball

Traffic calming pilons double as a volley-ball net.



  1. Just had this very idea to get to know my neighbours better (which I don’t) so thanks for showing us how!

  2. Oh, that looks like such fun!

    There was a party on Waverly between St-Viateur and Bernard last Fête nationale; I don’t remember whether they had a permit. It recaptured some of the magic of the wonderful old St-Viateur Fête nationale (et internationale) celebration.

    The only problem with banning alcohol on the street is that it puts a damper of the wonderful tradition of les grandes tablées, where people put many tables end to end to do a collective sit-down meal (with wine or beer for those so inclined). I’d hope the city would ignore that as well, as these are family-friendly events and very far from rowdy drunken behaviour.

    There was such a tablée on Waverly last year.

  3. I was at a similar tablée on Bloomfield in Outremont a few years ago. Don’t know if it’s still going on.

  4. I’ve stumbled upon a couple of street parties in Maisonneuve and Rosemont where alcohol on the street was not an issue. I think that it’s one of those archaic laws which remain on the books but are largely ignored.

    I laughed when I read the warning on the St. Patrick’s parade website: “No alcohol” it stated, a warning that was thoroughly ignored by all involved, police and parade-goers alike.

    Another example: Les feux d’artifices. The first time I watched from the bridge, an SQ officer informed me that cans and bottles were not allowed on the Jacques. I only had 2 cans of Becks but I didn’t want to abandon them. “You’ll have to drink them quickly, the show starts in 15 minutes.” said the officer. So I joined a small group of can-bringers and downed them beside the SQ cruiser. A very Montréal solution!

    Alcohol is such a non-issue here compared to where I grew up: anal-retentive Ontario. Entire festival sites/concert venues are licensed-no idiotic ‘beer gardens’, it’s OK to relax in the park with a bottle of wine or a few beers, deps offer a sac if you want to take a traveller with you etc.

    Perhaps it’s time that we make it official and legalise drinking in public?

  5. I think it was 75 or 76 when they had the Fete Nationale on the mountain. A group of us got out of a taxi on Cote des Neiges with a case of 24 each ( we were meeting friends – wink!). No sooner did we start walking than a cop comes up to us and asks, “Do you know who I am?”, anticipating a problem we all just sort of dumbly said, “um, No?” Cop then snaps his fingers and says, “Hey, I’m de Fuzzz!” Party was on. He then hit us up for a beer and asked for one for his partner who was down the road a bit making sure that no females got on the mountain without getting hit on. This actually happened. Sometimes, I really miss those days.

    Street parties are the best!

  6. Love your post! Thanks for giving us the taste for organizing a block party AND providing tips to do it. I’ll definitely watch out for your other posts.

  7. Very interesting read. i still love to read bicycle articles even though i cannot ride anymore following my accident. thats why now i spend most my time now promoting bicycle safety. Thanks for the great post.

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