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POLAND Block party gives neighborhood chance to stretch



Published: Mon, September 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Former residents and even a retired letter carrier came back for the get-together.

By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.and DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

POLAND -- The 200 block of Nesbitt Street is a quiet, picturesque neighborhood where everybody knows the guy next door and community togetherness is celebrated -- at least once a year.

Nineteen homes with well-manicured lawns line the street. The occasional basketball hoop can be seen in driveways where younger kids and teenagers live. Most often, there are a few people outside reading the paper, talking to a neighbor or tending to lawn work.

There is something more on Nesbitt Street, a quarter-century-long tradition that residents say has brought out a neighborly love not seen in a lot of areas.

Residents here, past and present, come together annually during the Labor Day Weekend for a block party.

"My neighbor, Judi Sullivan, and I were new to the neighborhood in the mid-'70s and we just thought a block party would be a fun thing to do, so we got together and did it," said Carol Carr, Nesbitt resident and coordinator of the block party. "Everybody loved it and we have done it every year since then."

According to Carr, the annual celebration works out well for new neighbors who have not yet met everyone in the neighborhood as well as for those who have moved away and still come back to visit. The party, she said, makes residents feel like more than just neighbors.

"This makes us feel like a family and keeps everybody up to date on what everybody else is doing and what the kids are up to," she said. "It's a very nice way to close out the summer."

Activities

Twenty people joined in a golf outing Sunday morning, and 30 turned out for an afternoon softball game.

But the highlight of the day is the early-evening picnic, which was attended by about 60 people. Tables are set up in a couple back yards and everybody brings a covered dish.

"Seeing everybody come is such a great feeling," Mrs. Sullivan said. "We have a tremendous neighborhood."

Residents laughed while they caught up with neighbors and people who used to live on the street. Then they enjoyed playing games, such as Poland trivia and water-balloon tossing.

The party is such fun that former residents came Sunday from New York, Maryland and Illinois, not to mention Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Group greeting

Jim and Billie Wetzel moved away from Nesbitt Street 18 years ago, but they still come back for the party every so often from their home in Salisbury, Md. When they arrived Sunday, some Nesbitt Street residents eagerly gathered around their car before they had the chance to get parked.

Mrs. Wetzel said she was looking forward to having all seven of her children at the party this year. The family was all in town this weekend to celebrate the Wetzels' 50th wedding anniversary.

John Leone, 80, comes to the party with his wife, Loretta, each year even though he never lived on the street.

Longtime residents greeted him and his wife with a hearty handshake or a kiss.

He was the neighborhood's beloved mailman for 20 years until he retired 16 years ago. He endeared himself to the residents by dressing up as a clown on Halloween and Santa Claus during Christmas week and having a friendly greeting all year.

"There is a lot of new people who just moved in, but I'll get acquainted," Leone said as he approached the tables in the back yards.




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