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Block Party: Thursdays on May Street bring family and pedestrian-friendly fun

The barriers across May Street on Thursday nights keep out the cars but not the fun.

The occasion: Block Party, when the street is closed from 13th to 17th, between Jackson Park and the Hood River Aquatic Center, from 3 to 8 p.m.

“It’s a hard-to-beat event,” said Todd Dierker, manager of one of the participating groups, Gorge Grown Farmers Market.

Many groups are holding block parties these days but this is a several-block party, connecting the pool, farmers market and Families in the Park in one, big pedestrian-friendly closed-street affair each Thursday in August. The weekly event includes:

n Families in the Park, the Thursdays-in-August Hood River tradition that starts at 6 p.m.;

n Farmers Market, held Thursdays from 3-7 p.m. at Hood River Middle School, across the street, featuring local growers, music, kids’ activities and more; and

n Hood River Aquatic Center swimming, 17th and May, across from Hood River Middle School.

If there’s one thing lacking for this event with its closed streets, it’s people (literally) in the streets.”

“We need to get a few more things going in the streets,” said John Rust of Community Education, which sponsors Families in the Park.

So far, in the street are hula hoops, vendors, fitness activities, a bubble blowing station and more.

Hot food vendors are stationed on May Street and “serve as the glue between the events,” Dierker said.

He noted that Families in the Park was originated to bring people together and to help a nonprofit-of-the-night, so in that spirit, the hot food vendors are donating a portion of their proceeds to that week’s group charity.

“I feel like people are really getting accustomed to swimming at the pool in the afternoon, coming the market and then Families in the Park,” Dierker said.

“For the market it brings in a whole new section of the community. I think it’s impossible to come to Families in the Park anymore and not recognize there’s this other event going on.

“We’ve seen a bump in attendance. People are sort of buying their picnics and going across the street, whether it’s strawberries, or pizza, or whatever,” Dierker said.

Rust said Block Party is building toward becoming a big success.

“I hope people are embracing it. It’s new and different, but it seems like the right thing to do,” he said.

“I walked out in the street, freely, and it felt amazing. It felt weird to cross the street but it felt really good.” said Rust.

“There are people in the market, people are using the pool . . . I saw a dad and his kids, they went swimming and then came to the market and headed over the park. That is success, when you see a family have that much fun.”

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