IMPERIAL – It was too early in the evening to tell whether there would be dancing in the streets, but if there were, it was promised it would be done with proper 6-foot spacing.
Several households on Mazatlan Drive in the Paseo del Sol subdivision held a social distance “block party” Saturday evening. Basically, participating households opened up their garages, fired up their grills and had private cookouts in their front yards within view of their neighbors.
Families exchanged waves and shouted greetings from across the street or down the sidewalk. Music was playing from assorted radios and sound systems. One family was playing cornhole. Others were cooling off in inflatable wading pools. And the air was filled with the aroma of searing meat.
One of the driving forces behind the event was Imperial Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susan Paradis. She and husband, Jerry, have lived in the neighborhood about two years. Like many people, she hadn’t been seeing much of the neighbors lately due to shelter-in-place orders and restrictions on public gatherings.
She recently was made aware of an idea making the rounds in the news and on social media of block parties and Friday night neighborhood “happy hours.” These events follow prescribed social distancing but allow people to emerge from their bunkers and enjoy at least a semblance of normalcy.
She took the idea and ran with it. “I literally went door to door and invited everyone to participate,” she said.
Brad Thorp, who lives next door to the Paradises with his wife, Julie, said he saw a story about the neighborhood events on the news and passed it along. “I thought it sounded like a great idea,” he said. “Any excuse to barbecue is a great idea.”
Eddie Delgado was across the street grilling up carne asada, burgers, brats and just about anything else within reach. He said he was looking forward to life getting back to normal, and he thought Saturday’s neighborhood event was a worthy compromise until that can happen.
“You’ve gotta go by the rules,” he said.
Next door, the Mia family was preparing for dinner at a table in front of the house while Dad, Mohammad, grilled chicken, carne asada and shrimp kabobs.
Mom Viridian Mia said her family was happy for the opportunity to be out of the house and see people outdoors. “We haven’t seen anybody,” she said.
Across the street, the Rodriguez family was playing cornhole. Dad, Mark, the maintenance director for Imperial Unified School District, was busy getting schooled in the game by wife, Adrienne, vice principal at Central Union High School and a former college softball pitcher.
Watching in the wings was another softball star. Daughter Sadriena, a former standout pitcher at Southwest High School, is currently on scholarship with the Orediggers of Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.
Mark Rodriguez described the block party as trying to make the best of a difficult situation. “It’s great to see the neighbors,” he said.
Paradis said she was happy with Saturday’s participation. She said there may be more of these events in the future as long as people are willing and circumstances allow it.