Bancroft gathering’s popularity grows
Extra food runs needed as more than 300 flock to annual ‘block-nic’

       At least 300 Westsiders gathered July 31 at Bancroft Park for food and games, courtesy of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) and the West Center for Intergenerational Learning. Balloon twister Gary Jones was a busy man. Line dancers perform on stage.
Westside Pioneer photo
       The annual event was such a hit this year that OWN ran out of food - until members ran out to get more (twice) - and West Center staff gave out all the prizes they'd brought for their games.
       Termed a “picnic” by OWN and a “block party” by West Center, the “block-nic” has come a long way since OWN's first try at it six years ago, according to OWN board member Bob Kliewer and former OWN members Tom Gallagher (now a City Council member) and Sallie Clark (now a county commissioner). They remember standing around in Vermijo Park with a barbecue going but hardly anyone to eat the food.
       The popularity has picked up over the years, aided in 2001 by partnering with the West Intergenera-tonal Center (which had formerly done a solo “block party” event). But even last year, when it rained a lot, “we had so much stuff left over, we were trying to find people to take it,” Kliewer said.
       This year, he and others grilled up 200 hamburgers and 175 hotdogs, while 7 pizzas were brought in and soon devoured. Donated food included two big containers of beans, salads, cookies and pies, also were eaten up. In addition, people drank 250 cans of soda pop and 24 bottles of water.
       West Center Director E.D. Rucker shared Kliewer's enthusiasm. “We've never run out of prizes before,” he said. “There were just more people, which is good. It was a great turnout and a great event.”
       OWN is a volunteer group which receives some city money through the Westside's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
       Using space in West Middle School, the variously funded West Center offers a variety of programs and classes to the community.

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