With beach balls, cold-brewed coffee and live music, New Haven’s Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism hosted its first annual block party on the New Haven Green Saturday.
Food trucks — including Mr. Ice Cream, Ay Arepa and Lunch Box 23 — lined College Street, while four bands competed for a cash prize provided by sponsor Xfinity. The block party, attended by roughly 500 people, was followed by a “Back to School Indie Dance Party” at the College Street Music Hall and an after-party at Gotham Citi Cafe.
“This definitely is part of a larger initiative to make New Haven the cultural capital of Connecticut,” said Reed Immer, one of the coordinators of the block party and the marketing director for Junzi Kitchen, a new quick-service Chinese restaurant set to open on Broadway this fall.
Immer said that Andrew Wolf, director of Arts, Culture and Tourism in New Haven, approached him in June, asking him to throw a celebration to welcome students back to New Haven. Immer said he then reached out to local bands and businesses to see if they wanted to get involved.
Four bands performed at the block party, including Yale student band Slam Dank as well as Psychoala from the University of New Haven, which took home the $1,000 Xfinity Crowd-Favorite Prize. The winner was decided based on the number of likes each band’s designated picture received on Instagram.
Wolf said the block party is part of Mayor Toni Harp’s broader effort to make New Haven a more attractive place to work, play and, ultimately, live.
“We want to reach as many constituencies as we can,” Wolf said.
The event was marketed as an end-of-summer attraction specifically for college students and young professionals. Approximately 1,600 people responded “going” on the New Haven Block Party Facebook event, which was the main advertising tool used to attract students. Still, the event drew well under that number of attendees.
Of the 84 people whom the News polled at theww block party, 23 said they were from outside of New Haven. Of the 61 from New Haven, 11 said they were affiliated with Yale either as an undergraduate student or a graduate student, and one student came from Southern Connecticut State University.
Several local attendees, such as Ed Natera and Ernest Bookert, said that they thought there should be more events like Saturday’s, particularly on the Upper Green. In addition, several attendees said they enjoyed the beach balls and the photo booth.
“I think it’s pretty cool that New Haven has something like this,” state Rep. Robyn Porter said. “It just feels good to be a kid again.”
Still, a few attendees expressed an expectation that the event would draw more visitors.
Keren Abreu ’15, who is a member of the band Slam Dank, said she wished that the turnout had been bigger on such a beautiful day.
“Maybe people don’t know about it,” Abreu said. “The people who are here seem to enjoy it, though.”
The event was sponsored by Xfinity, with additional support from Park New Haven and Gotham Citi Cafe.