Thursday was a perfect day for the 6th annual Block Party in Skiddy Park on Syracuse’s Near West Side. Music blared from speakers as hundreds gathered in the park to play in the bounce houses, try their hand at games, get dunked in the dunk tank, or just enjoy a hot dog.
Director of the Near West Side Initiative Maarten Jacobs says the celebration has come a long way in six years.
"The first year, only about 100 people showed up...more like a neighborhood picnic. It grew and grew."
The number of sponsors and partner organizations has grown exponentially along with attendance, which is now around 1,500 for the four-hour event. One partner from the beginning is the Gifford Foundation. Director of Neighborhood Initiatives Sheena Solomon says it’s a collective effort to change the quality of life for residents, and associate something positive in a sometimes troubled part of town.
"There's a lot of festivals in the city of Syracuse that take place down in Clinton Square. But I personally like the things that happen in neighborhoods because it gives people an excuse to go into a neighborhood that they maybe they wouldn't have gone in before. So I think doing things in our neighborhoods where people live is extremely important."
One of the highlights of the party was the unveiling of a new soccer court in the park. Jacobs with the Near West Side Initiative says to picture indoor soccer, only outside, with walls.
"With the growing diversity of the community, the large Latino community that really likes soccer but not having actually soccer goals in the grassy areas. But what can we do with this tennis court that no one's used for a decade. That's when the idea came...wouldn't it be great to create a mini-soccer court, that way you don't have to play 11 on 11; you can have a great game with 5 or 10 folks, and that's what we did."
And, children could already be seen kicking around soccer balls in the new court, as well as shooting a few hoops in the nearby basketball court.
MEANWHILE, OUTSIDE THE PARK...
Those who didn’t venture just outside park missed out on some other attractions that featured art and technology.