A couple of weeks ago we had our first Mesa Junction neighborhood house party and it was a huge success. Despite the stress that comes with planning any party, it couldn't have been better. We had around 60 people milling around our home and yard. The atmosphere was lively but relaxed. Neighbors were surprised, if not shocked, to have been invited. And I was told over and over how thankful people were, how no one in the neighborhood had ever done anything like it, and how much our city needs this kind of community building. If I've learned anything here, it is that even people who seem to need nothing and no one long for authentic community and most have never experienced it.
Thankfully we have a number of incredibly talented friends who helped us turn our tiny, narrow back yard into the perfect sanctuary. We had live music on our newly built stage and live artists, including Mandy who artfully arranged shards of mirror into mysteriously appearing visages and Andreas who worked tirelessly for 5-6 hours on a 12+ foot canvas showing us all how graffiti art is done. To keep things simple, we grilled burgers, asking friends to help out by bringing heaping plates and bowls of tomatoes, green chiles and guacamole. Our friend John manned the grill all night, Bryson organized the musicians and artists and kept the flow of the party nice and easy. Brian set the tone early with his unique and artsy folk music. Frank came on later in the evening with his soulful crooning and cello playing. Kids ran around inside and out while senior citizens chatted at bistro tables we borrowed from the church building. There was a beautiful, diverse mix of ages, races and backgrounds that I've come to love about Pueblo, yet, uncharacteristically, everyone seemed to have let down their guard and were enjoying each other and the night together.
I ran around playing hostess all evening and completely forgot to take pictures until the party was winding down and only a few friends and stragglers hung around smoking cigarettes and sizing up the evening. As much as I love parties, the introvert in me was freaking out for days over the size of the crowd we were hoping for. But it was exciting and energizing to see the people we'd invited from our favorite neighborhood shops and restaurants actually show up especially all the perfect strangers, that we (I don't mean ME, of course!) knocked on unfriendly doors to invite, laughing and smiling and thanking us over and over for opening up our home to them. Many simply couldn't imagine why we'd do such a thing for people we didn't even know.
That night we made new friends and deepened old friendships relying on each other to make the night a success. It was exactly the kind of thing I dreamed of doing when we moved to Pueblo. It has taken 3 long, hard years to carve out a place in this city that so often reminds us we don't belong. (All I have to do is open my mouth and everyone knows I am definitely not from Pueblo.) We've committed to hosting a neighborhood party every quarter and I'm so freaking excited about the next one! Art, music, food, conversation, good people--whose heart is so hard not to be soften by that? We received a text from a new friend the day after the party and knew we had done something right: "Great party! Art + music = community!" Yes! He got it. After all that we've been through, I couldn't ask for more than that.
Just one more thing in case you are now thinking of hosting your own neighborhood party--and I hope you are! We ended up spending maybe $100 on ground meat, etc. and asked friends to bring condiments, sides and the rest. We borrowed chairs and tables and used what we had around the house to decorate. Everything we used to build the stage including the old doors and windows were pulled out of dumpsters! So if you are thinking of throwing your own party, you don't need to have tons of money, just be creative, keep an open mind, check neighborhood dumpsters religiously and don't think you have to do everything yourself. Depend on friends to help set up and bring food. We also printed simple black & white flyers and passed them out to neighbors including people we see frequently in our favorite shops and restaurants. Most of the people we invited came so plan for a big turn out and just have fun with it! Like us, you might just decide to make it an annual tradition!