07 Apr 2021

Building community:

How to make your Ward 6 Happy Hours unforgettable, Part 1

9th Street neighbors pose with Crush Funk Brass Band. Photo courtesy of Irene Garcia

We’ve been in some sort of social isolation for well over a year. There are more things open now and it seems like we’re seeing the light at the end of this tumultuous tunnel, but the coronavirus pandemic has also made some magic happen. This week, neighbors on 9th Street SE tell us how they’ve turned their Ward 6 Happy Hour into an incredible event.

Mary Kaniewski sent out Charles Allen’s original Ward 6 Happy Hour email from March 25, 2020, to fellow neighbors’ addresses and started spreading the word. She says, “The first HH was the start of many new friendships, as well as getting to know long-time neighbors we hardly knew. In 90 degrees or 30 degrees we’ve been out there every Friday for a year (but not in the rain of course!).”

Winter didn’t stop the neighbors from getting together, as Steve and Irene have a very nice heating setup that, according to neighbor Jordan Hersch, keeps morale up.

The happy hours have evolved into tasty events, as well. Irene Garcia, whose Facebook post caught my eye, tells me the following: “For happy hours, everyone has their own preference. However, for special community events, my husband, Steve, goes above and beyond to cook different types of food for the neighborhood like bangers and colcannon [Irish-style mashed potatoes with greens] for St. Patrick’s day or pulled pork for the Super Bowl. We have always gone all out in decorating; however, this year it was just as important to Steve and me to keep the spirit of all the holidays for our son and other children (and children at heart) during the pandemic… [T]he entire neighborhood pitches in during the special events and it is just amazing!”

One of the houses along 9th Street SE where the magic happens every Friday for over a year. Photo by Maria Helena Carey

And what about the band? Jordan tells me, “Crush funk played our block as part of their COVID-19 mental health concert series. It was purely by chance that they chose our street. But that night I took them out to dinner as a thank-you, and to get to know the group. Since that day they have come back to our block maybe 4 more times, sometimes on their own and other times by invitation. They also play randomly across the city… The idea behind their concerts is just to promote mental well-being in a time when we are all stuck inside.”

Jordan adds, “Our happy hour has been the best part of COVID… Many many socially distant happy hours later, we have built a community on our block that probably can’t ever be replicated again. It’s a shame that it took something like [this] for us to invest our time in our neighbors, but I am very glad we did. I consider all our neighbors friends now.”

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