SPRINGFIELD — Not even the smoke could stop the community from filling the streets in Downtown on Friday night for The Springfield BLOCK Party.
Local vendors, organizations and new business owners brought their unique stories, causes and products to put on display on Friday, Sept. 9
Close to 5,000 community members filled the streets. Event organizer Ben Wilkinson said that staggering attendance within the smoke “was a testament to the commitment of our community to come together.”
The event featured activities for adults as well as children. Vahana Keen, economic development officer for the City of Springfield, was pleased that the event catered to everyone, something she loves about Springfield overall.
“We’re getting to the point where we have activities and events for all ages that people can enjoy together like this. … We have been able to hold on to our past, but also look into our future and find something for everybody,” she said.
Longtime resident Sherri Hockett ate up the learning opportunities The Springfield History Museum and the Springfield Library provided.
“I’m learning a lot,” she said. Hockett’s interest in history comes from her family, who came out on the Oregon Trail in 1847, one of whom married a girl belonging to the Booth family, as in Henry Booth of Booth Kelly Mill. “Anything that is history or genealogy related, is perfect for me,” she said.
The Springfield BLOCK Party provided color to the town, in contrast to the smoky gray sky. A bounce house, with blue, yellow and red stripes sat on S. 4th Street, right next to the energetic jump rope station, and, of course, the knife jugglers.
Families couldn’t help but stop and stare at jugglers Habba La Babbs and Sir Yapsalot, who even invited some kiddos to join in their display. With their antics, they surely had everyone on the edge of their seats.
In front of their new space, owners of Pegasus Play House, Erin and Scott Frazier-Maskiell announced they found a permanent home at 402 Main St. and put on a kids performance. The play house is a nonprofit children’s theater; Scott hopes to be open in November for their fall shows. “This is something I’ve always had a passion for, especially with kids,” Scott said.
April Oristano, mother of youth actor Noah Orsitano, came to support her son who was performing with the theater. “That’s really what brought us here — to see Noah perform in one of the pieces,” Oristano said. Noah was playing Jesus, which they both thought was quite amusing, letting out simultaneous laughter.
Oregon Axe Throwing was also a popular activity. Staff members parked an enclosed trailer on 4th St. and invited residents of all ages to have a shot at the bullseye, emphasizing the importance of leaning forward and following through with your arms.
Another striking station was hosted by Kia Anvilkin with Lady Bug Art, who set up her stand outside Plank Town Brewery. Anvilkin is a jeweler and her husband, Duck, makes ornate masks out of leather with a medieval aesthetic. It’s a family business that helps Anvilkin provide for her family, she said.
Prior to the event, they were notified that they were in a level two evacuation due to the Cedar Creek Fire, but they still wanted to come out to the party.
Later in the evening, mariachi music filled the air at the Fountain Plaza. Dancers and singers came dressed to the nines in bright and ornate dresses, delivering a performance and celebration that inspired others to jump up and join the dance. Audience members were captivated while they snacked on tacos that were served nearby.
In addition to fun and games, some residents found it an opportune moment to raise awareness on serious issues impacting our area. Rae LaMarche, president elect of the Springfield Rotary, came prepared to spread awareness for human trafficking.
“I think we’re just looking forward to talking to people and getting the word out … we want to spread the word that trafficking is here – it’s negative, it’s not a really positive thing but it’s important,” she said. LaMarche believes spreading awareness will benefit the community, something she plans to do as she takes on the presidency role next year.
Perhaps the vendors who tugged most at the heartstrings were William and Linda Segura, owners of Linda’s Catering Services. The Seguras are raising money for their seven-month-old son, who needs medical equipment that insurance won’t pay for. The Seguras were selling cotton candy and hosting a raffle to raise funding for their little one.
“I think about other people that might be stressed or have a lot of issues going on have to put them aside. I just try to keep on going and make the kids happy. That’s what we do,” Linda said. The Seguras moved to Springfield from California three years ago and are thankful for their new Springfield community. “There are a lot of supportive people here and I love it here. The people are really great,” Linda said.
With a rich history, active community members and a bright future, the popularity and liveliness of The Springfield BLOCK Party showed the resilience of Springfield people – despite the haze of smoke.
“We are getting out in the world even with the smoke. It’s been really fun. It feels good to see our community come together,” said Ariane Langenburg, resident of Springfield. “There’s so much stuff going on around the world and we still have to live our lives.”
For Wilkinson, the event exceeded expectations. Moving forward, Wilkinson is excited for what this means for Springfield.
“We want to keep it going to keep it feeling like a hometown party and keep small businesses and organizations coming together to help each other succeed and promote what we do,” he said.