What do tutus, ice cream, fire jugglers, beer, feather headdresses and local music all have in common?
For one day in Eugene, these things and more are combined to create the Whiteaker Block Party.
On Saturday, the neighborhood opened itself up to the Eugene community and beyond, kicking off the sixth annual event with live music, food and crafts.
“It’s really cool for the community to come together like this,” said Trevor Stewart, who attended the block party for the first time with a group of friends. “It’s very unique. It’s very Eugene.”
The block party, created in 2006 by a group of friends living in the Whiteaker neighborhood, encourages residents to open their streets and their doors to the community and is sponsored by Ninkasi Brewing Company. Closing off the entire area between West 2nd and 3rd Avenue, Adams Street and Blair Boulevard, the party offers live music, crafts, fashion, vendors and food to all who choose to come. The event is free and in the past has attracted an estimated 5,000 people in one day.
“It’s nice to see this place blow up one day out of the year,” said Natasha Banks, a volunteer with the event who has been attending since she moved to Eugene four years ago, “because people open up their houses to strangers to come inside and see what these people that live in these houses create in their spare time. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Populated by eight stages (which are scattered throughout the area — built on parking lots, inside the Ninkasi Brewing Company’s patio and even between two of the resident’s houses), the block party spread these stages out so that attendees may also see the street of vendors, order from food carts or visit the Ninkasi beer garden.
By the end of the night, the stages had seen more than 40 bands and performers, including local group such as Adventure Galley, Kimosobi, Mufassa and Hot for Chocolate.@@names [email protected]@
“It’s good to be back in our hometown. It’s nice to be home,” said Dorian Aites, singer and multi-instrumentalist for local band Rare Monk.@@[email protected]@
Members of the five-piece group graduated from the University of Oregon four years ago — but feel they have been able to maintain their strong connection to the Eugene community since they moved to Portland.
Their third time performing at the Whiteaker Block Party, the group played a forty-five minute set to an enthusiastic crowd, introducing the audience almost entirely to new songs from their upcoming full-length album.
Just a little farther down the road, attendees could visit a variety of different vendors, some of whom showed off local clothing and accessories, offered tarot card readings, provided back massages and sold colorful artwork.
One such vendor — a 22-foot former bread van turned ice cream truck — sat near the end of the street. It attracted a smattering of kids of all ages, some of whom gathered excitedly around the side of their truck and others who stepped off to the side to begin break dancing to its music.
The truck, known as Sickest Beats, is owned and operated by two UO students and painted entirely with black chalkboard paint. The two owners decided, too, to incorporate some of their favorite music, dubstep, into their business.
“We have a huge chalkboard, so kids and people just draw all over it,” said Trevor Mathwick, co-owner of Sickest Beats. “And we play dubstep, which is really loud, kind of obnoxious … We love it.”
Later on in the evening, as the live music came to an end and vendors began packing up their stuff, people gathered once more around the Parking Lot stage in an effort to see the final performance of the evening: The Whiteaker Block Party fashion show.
“All the designers are designing right here in the neighborhood, so it’s a really good feel for Whiteaker fashion,” said Laura Lee Laroux, owner of Redoux Parlour and co-producer of the Whiteaker Block Party fashion show.
The show concluded the evening, easily attracting the largest crowd of the night as models strutted across the stage, wearing more than 45 pieces created by local designers.
The show included clothes designed by Redoux Parlour, Spandex, Body, FORM, Dr. Julien and Rooster Baby. Top hats, vests and feathers appeared to be common in many of the pieces. Laroux described the style as “steam punk-y,” “Western” and “modern.”
“It’s really great to expose people who maybe wouldn’t pay money to see Eugene Fashion Week or think it’s something that they’re not into,” she said. “Then they come to this show, and it gives them a good experience.”
As the final show ends and the crowd begins to disperse, it might be hard to believe that in just a few days where there once were stages and booths will be driveways and parking lots, streets and porches. But that’s the Whiteaker Block Party: A unique, community-driven, locally focused event that for one night, shows its spirit in Eugene.