Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 26, 2013

Block party brings neighbors together

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — Many who live along Ashland’s Bradley Drive had other places to be Saturday, although they chose to stay home and spend an afternoon celebrating the value of good neighbors instead.

“I skipped going to Louisville for my brother-in-law’s party, which is going to be off the hook,” said Retta Wilson, who lives on Bradley Drive with her husband, Charlie. “We moved here in 2009 and it’s the best neighborhood we’ve ever lived in.”

A bitter wind threatened to dampen spirits as the neighborhood block party got under way around noon, but the spirit of the occasion seemed to keep the crowd warm as they shared a meal and found seats for the real action as auctioneer Jeff Webb encouraged them to compete with bids for items ranging from a decorative wreath, baseball lessons, a gold package, a basket of Halloween goodies and perhaps the most prized item, a blue and white basketball signed by the 2013 UK basketball team and Coach John Calipari.

“Is that this year’s team?” one person in the crowd along the street asked as Webb urged them to consider the basketball’s potential value after this year’s team claims the championship.

“Yes. It was signed by Calipari and the whole team except Willie Cauley-Stein. He wasn’t there the day they did the signing,” said Amy Gray, who co-organized the annual block party along with Teresa Church.

The crowd, including many individuals wearing UK logos on their clothing and standing next to a corn-toss game adorned in the school’s colors, engaged in spirited bidding for the ball.

 As the bidding got heated, neighbor Mike Sturm lost track of the action at one point and added $5 to his already-high bid of $155. When the gavel came down, Sturm was pleased to pay $165 for the autographed basketball.

“I will probably give it to my stepdaughter, Courtney Martin. I’m a UK fan, but she’s an even bigger UK fan,” he said.

Accompanied by his dog, Remington, Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles made a point of visiting the neighborhood gathering, winning the bid for a Longaberger basket filled with Halloween treats, speaking with the men at the back of the crowd and checking out the collection of homemade desserts, as well as hot dogs, pizza and a table full of lunch foods before following the large dog back down the lane. Additional auction items which earned the crowd’s bids included balls and a golf package at Austin Hills; personal tutoring by Jesse Griffith and baseball lessons from Tim Rice, and UK items “donated by U of L fans,” Gray said.

Gray said proceeds from the auction will go to River Cities Harvest, as well as helping toward next year’s block party, welcome trays for new neighbors, emergency assistance for a neighbor facing unexpected challenges or even memorial flowers in the event of a neighbor’s death. Emphasizing that Teresa Church does more to pull the event together than she does, Gray estimated the block party costs $300 to $400 and a full year of planning. Even with expenses and time factored in, Gray said the event is absolutely worth the effort.

“Oh, gosh yes. We have the best neighborhood in the world,” she said, reaching a conclusion about the “priceless” nature of the gathering with the help of neighbor Retta Wilson. “I mean, how do you put a value on this? My kids are growing up in Mayberry.”

Neighbor Judy Gray described the close-knit nature of neighbors along Bradley Drive as “the kind of place where if somebody is digging a ditch, everybody comes out with their teaspoons to help.”

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.