National Night Out in Old North strengthens two neighborhoods' ties

National Night Out in Old North strengthens two neighborhoods' ties

OLD NORTH ST. LOUIS – Each year on the first Tuesday in October, many St. Louisans hit the streets to celebrate National Night Out, a national campaign that was created to help foster healthy relationships between law enforcement and the public.

Residents across the city gathered for their annual neighborhood block parties, and among them was one in Old North St. Louis.

Dozens of neighbors flocked to Crown Plaza on Oct. 1 for the Old North/St. Louis Place National Night Out Block Party.

The party was the brainchild of four neighbors, four years ago, who wanted to bring people together for an evening of fun and relaxation.

“I live in St. Louis Place, and at that time St. Louis Place and Old North had a lot going on, and there was just this feeling of disconnectedness,” said Megan Betts, a resident of St. Louis Place and one of the party organizers. 

According to Betts, it was that feeling of discomfort that motivated the group to host a block party in Old North. She said that once the group learned about National Night Out, it seemed the perfect opportunity to bring the two areas’ residents together; so they capitalized on it.

Betts said their idea was, “Let’s do a National Night Out between two neighborhoods, and we would start calling it ‘Bridging the Divide.’” 

The owner of Crown Candy Kitchen, Andy Karandzieff, alongside the owner of La Mancha Coffeehouse, Veronica Holden, joined forces with Betts and her husband, Phil Betts, to bring their vision to life.

“We’ve had it for four years now to where we kind of all know our roles, and we’ve been able to work together and help put this on,” Betts added.

From 5 until 8 p.m., near the corner of 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue, there was free food, music, face painting, chess games, a balloon artist, a firetruck and the chance to engage with law enforcement.

“This corner is kind of the anchor for the neighborhood,” Karandzieff said.

Karandzieff acknowledged that the first block party, in 2016, had low attendance numbers. He said it was then that he and other neighbors decided to make a conscious effort to make the block party enjoyable for everyone.

“We just talked about it: Let’s try and give these people a really nice party to enjoy, just to say, ‘Hey, thanks for being our neighbor,’” he said. 

Karandzieff mentioned that low attendance was now a thing of the past; each year’s block party has become bigger and better.

“It’s fun,” he said. “We get to feed everybody. My friends are clowns, and they come down and they face paint and make balloons. The kids have a great time. We’ve got the bouncy house. It’s just a nice evening,” Karandzieff went on to say.

“The best thing about it is that I see people that we don’t normally see at other events or maybe not in day-to-day activities,” Megan Betts added. “It really draws a lot of community members that we don’t get to see every single day, and that’s why I think it’s a really special event for us.” 

This year is the second year the city of St. Louis has hosted National Night Out in October instead of the first Tuesday in August, which is when the rest of the country usually celebrates.

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