July 23, 2024

Ashland neighborhood celebrates 25 years of block parties

Neighbors gather on Starlite Place for the annual block party. Debora Gordon photo
August 10, 2023

After a break for COVID, annual gathering renews celebration of good food, good talk, good times and good friends

By Debora Gordon for

An Ashland neighborhood celebrated the 25th anniversary of its annual block part Sunday, filling a cul-de-sac with about 40 friends and neighbors, conversations, photo collages of past gatherings and joy in this year’s opportunity to renew old acquaintance.

Beginning in 1998, neighbors living in the Ashland hills along Pinecrest Terrace on the south side of town began gathering at the end of the Starlite Place spur for what became an ongoing annual tradition of gathering to meet, greet, share food and have a great time.

Wenda Puzzo is a relative newcomer, having lived in the neighborhood for two years.

Wenda Puzzo. Debora Gordon photo

“We moved into this neighborhood from Mexico out of the country,” she told a visiting reporter. “Knew not a soul. On the first day, Mike and Merry came and introduced themselves and it has been the best thing ever for knowing no one in a town and we have met so many of these wonderful neighbors.

“We hang out all the time; a group of us get together. I always tell people, if you don’t know anyone, move up here. We have watched the neighborhood change a lot; we have a lot of young families moving in. We’re excited about that, so we absolutely love it.”

Puzzo has Jean Scott to thank. Bob Scott, her husband, commends his wife Jean for being the organizer for the gathering.

Jean and Bob Scott. Debora Gordon photo

“I’ve been involved in this for 25 years,” Bob recalled. “And really I must say, it’s been a nice ride and my wife has done most of the work. I just do the heavy lifting; she does the real deal; making the posters, and the things that make this thing special.”

Jean Scott, agreed, saying, “I’ll concur with what he said; he’s absolutely right. It’s the woman who does all the work.”

Irving Lubliner, a longtime participant in the gathering, said, “I’ve been coming to these gatherings for about 18 years now. I don’t know that I’ve missed any in the 18 years I’ve been here. And this is just an example of what makes this neighborhood so wonderful.”

Joanne Kliejunas and her husband have also lived in the neighborhood for 18 years. Sunday she called for everyone’s attention and took a few moments to address the gathering. She described Jean Scott as “the mother of the neighborhood party. The other thing I’d like to say is that we love this neighborhood. Those of you who are new will learn to love it as well.

Irv Lubliner. Debora Gordon photo

“It’s the special place that it is because for over years, the people that you can see in the photographs and people who are still your neighbors have been taking care of this place. They have been planting trees; they have been taking care of landscaping. They’ve been being neighborly with each other.

“And I want to remember all those people who are part of this neighborhood. You can see pictures of them; some of them are no longer with us; some of them have moved. They have all left a mark here, as will you. We are now the custodians of this wonderful neighborhood and it’s up to us to keep it beautiful, keep it as safe as we can and to keep it as neighborly as it always has been. So, here we go! This is our time to leave a mark here.”

“I want to get to know my neighbors,” said Sue Bettinger. “Just seeing people outside in a nice environment, and realizing that there are good people in the universe, because sometimes when I hear the news, it’s awful.”

“This is a very social neighborhood, so, any excuse for a party!” said Merry Vediner. “The gathering was suspended for a couple of years because of both COVID and smoke — the only things that would keep us apart.”

Sue Bettinger. Debora Gordon photo

Usually about 40 people turn out. The original gatherings were held over the Labor Day weekend, but the celebration was moved to the first weekend in August, partly because of smoke conditions that often prevail in September, and because many neighbors travel out of town that three-day weekend.

Jay Dreyer-Sydee said he attends “just to see the neighbors and meet new friends, see old friends who have left but still come to the party.

Mike Vedinger, a 37-year resident and longtime participant in the gathering, perhaps summed it up, by simply noting, “We get to live here.”

A good time was definitely had by all.

Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California. Email her at

A banner on a car welcomes visitors to the block party. Debora Gordon photo
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