Antioch’s 26th block party draws community together

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Above, Kamarui Lewis, center, 4, bounces his way off the slide on one of several bounce houses set up at Antioch Baptist Church’s 26th annual block party at the corner of Cherry and High streets Wednesday night.

Community outreach that encourages the community to “reach in” — that’s the result of Antioch Baptist Church’s annual block party, first held in 1993.

Since the initial 500-person affair, which offered little more than food, drink and balloons, the party has grown to include thousands of people coming together over food, Christian music, games and community organizations looking to help, said Lisa Washington, wife of Antioch’s pastor, the Rev. Sam Washington.

“The Bible tells us about outreach, and we’re reaching out to the community to steer them in the direction of something positive,” she said. “Our outreach has caused them to reach in.”

And the always-cost-free bash “has grown and grown and grown,” said Barbara Voss, one of the organizers and an original Antioch member.

“There was a real interest in what was going on here, so we started adding,” she said.

Wednesday’s party, held at the corner of Cherry and High streets, as is tradition, saw children charging in droves for massive bounce houses while multiple music acts and rows of tables with games and important information kept people busy regardless of age.

“There’s so much to do. Those two hours fly,” said community member Janene Gulliver, who visited the party with her husband Tim and their three children.

This was the Gullivers’ second time at the block party. Her sons insisted on returning this year because they wanted to share the fun with their 10-month-old sister, Janene Gulliver said.

“They said, ‘We have to go so sissy can go,’ “ she said. “They’re loving it again this year.”

In addition to games and bounce houses, a horse and carriage ride, musical acts, airbrush tattoos and more entertained partygoers. Musicians praising Jesus encouraged community members get up and move.

Recording Christian hip-hop artist Mike GZ out of Atlanta, Georgia, was a crowd-pleaser, with hundreds of folks, young and old, dancing and interacting with his music.

Another favorite was the brass band Get Out, which performed at the block party for its third year.

Luke Darrup, of Kulpmont, who plays saxophone in the band, said the size of the party is “incredible.”

“It’s fantastic to get the community together,” he said. “Everyone’s coming out to enjoy good food and good music.”