Janesville70°

Block party a celebration of city’s west side

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
August 28, 2011
— Janesville resident Reagan Popp, 9, had just walked onto the tennis courts at Bond Park on Saturday when she saw a booth where money was being handed out. For free.

She got as many coins as she could grab with one hand—and a free piggy bank to store them.


“I didn’t expect this,” Popp said, pointing to a Thomas Jefferson dollar she had grabbed. “It’s a gold one.”


Popp was alongside a Blackhawk Community Credit Union booth where employees handed out coins and piggy banks to a line of youths Saturday at the Westside block party, hosted by Westgate Corridor.


The block party, which is in its second year, is becoming an annual end-of-summer event on Janesville’s west side. It’s part youth fun fair, part business expo and all fun.


“Everything’s free but the food,” said west side chiropractor and Westgate Corridor member Jim Damrow.


Damrow, along with 26 west side businesses, had booths at the block party, which ran from 5 to 8 p.m. The businesses served food and had games and giveaways with prizes donated that ranged from gift cards to backpacks. There was even a band and a fireworks show.


The Westgate Corridor is a group of residents, businesses, property owners and community leaders with a goal to promote strong neighborhoods on Janesville’s west side.


Organizers said the block party is a celebration of west side residents—but also a celebration of businesses on the west side.


“This party is also about letting people know the west side is a gem with all the little niches we have with business owners. We’re little businesses with a personal touch. We’re all individuals,” said Westgate member Jim Purviance, who owns Dairy Queen on West Court Street.


Patty Reynolds, who owns My Apartment Pub and Grill on the west side, said involvement by business doubled from last year’s block party, which the Westgate Corridor threw together in about three weeks.


She said 1,000 people came this year. She said there were at least as many as last year.


Matt’s Dog House, a west side restaurant, set up a hot dog stand at the block party this year. Owner Matt Kealy enjoyed being part of the food, fun and fireworks.


“I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces today. The west side people, they’re our bread and butter. It’s good to be able to give something back to these families,” he said.


Damrow said Westgate Corridor hopes to keep improving the block party every year. He said the group is working on other projects too, including one to add landscaping to beautify the Five Points, which is considered a gateway to the west side.


And Damrow said the group hopes later this year to hang solar-powered Christmas lights along West Court Street.



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