Tasty: Bell Street Block Party raises funds for nonprofit

By Beckie Peterson | Sep 16, 2017
Courtesy of: George Chen At the block party, from left: emcee Kathleen Griffin and chili contestants Eric Peterson (the winner), Patricia Andrews, Geoff Torgerson, Matt Livesey and Charisse Berni.

Hooray for wonderful neighbors, chili-perfect weather, and raising funds for a worthy cause.

The Bell Street Block Party on Saturday, Sept. 9, went over the top this year, raising more than $700 for Washington Kids in Transition, and challenges other neighborhoods to do the same.

Replacing the tried-and-true potluck-style event, this year's chili contest was organized by Shari Watkins, Kathleen Griffin and myself.

Seven eager neighborhood contestants served tastes of their chili creations, and neighbors voted for their favorite chili with money by dropping coins, dollars and checks into each contestant's donation jar.

These chili cooks really came to compete. Patricia Andrews brought a smoky chorizo, mushroom and lentil concoction. Cherisse Berni offered a creative riff of chili with tasty sloppy Joe sliders. Geoff Torgerson had the firecracker – the spiciest chili of the day.

Wendy Carpenter's traditional chili was seasoned to perfection. Eric Peterson's oversized red pot of chili had beef, pork, tequila – and beans on the side. With a surprise ingredient of pumpkin, Laura Meyer's vegetarian chili was a favorite. And the most-interesting-ingredients-in-chili award went to Matt Livesey's delicious pot with short ribs, marmite and anchovy.

In the end, Peterson was crowned the Bell Street Chili Champion, and Washington Kids in Transition came out the real winner, with donations totaling $722.20. Washington Kids in Transition is a local charity, supporting homeless K-12 students in the Edmonds School District.

"This was a great idea," said Michael Watkins, who performed much of the heavy lifting for setup and cleanup, as the event happened right in front of his house.

This is the eighth year the Bell Street neighbors have gathered. It all started in 2010 when Mark and Laura Meyers put flyers in neighbors' mailboxes, inviting them to a barbecue.

The Meyers were about to begin a home remodel project that would temporarily impact a shared alleyway; they hoped to meet neighbors and personally explain the project timeline.

A dozen neighbors gathered around a gas grill, enjoying hot dogs and a bucket of iced beers. More than few commented that, “We should do this again next year.”

And so, they did, and have again every year.

The date has moved around a bit, lately settling on the weekend after Labor Day. Each year, the party has increased in size (about 90 were expected this year) and now includes families from Bell, Main, and Edmonds streets between Sixth and Ninth avenues.

Despite the increase of scale, the party has gotten somewhat easier to organize as it builds on itself. Neighbors bring folding tables and chairs, canopies appear, someone started ordering a bounce house to entertain the kids while parents visit and a neighbor's music sound system has added ambiance, clearly heard announcements and spontaneous dancing.

And while the neighbors were partying together, a network was evolving. An offer to loan a ladder. A babysitter for a young family who just moved in. A name to go with the familiar lady walking her dog.

This block party has fostered many neighborly introductions and interactions, and has inspired a shared Facebook page and a disaster-planning committee. This year, the idea to have a chili cook-off expanded to include a fundraiser for the local Edmonds charity.

The Bell Street neighbors encourage others in Edmonds to get a block party started in their neighborhood.

It is a bit of work, but it is very important for our neighborhood and for our community building. We live among some dynamic, interesting, creative, talented people.

It’s fun to connect and share our afternoon with those we are lucky to call neighbors.



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