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The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Old Kids from the Block (Party)


Block Party has remained one of Grinnell College’s largest yearly traditions since its inception 16 years ago. This year’s Block Party is coordinated by Chris Marsho ’14, with the assistance of Hayes Gardner ’15. They have the pressure of upholding the extraordinary standards of the end-of-the-year celebration as well as the pressure of making a name for themselves in Block Party history.

The original Block Party was arranged in 1998 by a group of housemates living in 1017 High Street, which was then affectionately known as “The White House.” Its original founders threw the street-wide party as a small event and never expected it to become a school-wide tradition.

It wasn’t until 1999 when the Block Party event was expanded to be a larger, school-wide event. Shawn Hoy ’99, who was one of the founding members of the 1998 Block Party, arranged the second annual Block Party with Andrew Choquette ’00 and their housemates in The White House.

“It was actually a group of guys before me who did the first one; they did a sort of mini version of it. But one of those guys, [Shawn Hoy], was one of my roommates when I lived in the White House my junior year, so we were the group who put a little more gas into it,” Choquette said. Choquette currently serves as the Director of Investments of Grinnell College.

Choquette, along with the rest of The White House, continued to coordinate Block Party until 2000.

As the annual Block Party began to attract more attendees year by year, Choquette and his fellow coordinators had to think of more creative ways to raise money for the celebration.

“My senior year, we created this idea of the ‘Donor of the Day’ or the ‘Donor of the Week,’” Choquette explained. “If you were the donor of the day that paid the most money, we gave you a medal that you could wear … around your neck at the party and show it off. That actually helped us a lot with alumni who came back the next year because they were the ones with jobs and had more money. That helped us raise a lot of money really fast.”

As the years progressed, the tradition became more and more enshrined in the hearts of Grinnellians, and the attendance level of each year significantly increased.

John Antrim ’09, coordinator of the 2009 Block Party, wrote about that year’s celebrations in an email to the S&B.

“There were at least 600 students who attended despite the rain, and there were also plenty of friends from the community who joined the celebration,” he wrote.

For that year, a keg cooler was delivered with roughly 25 kegs inside, while an additional 25 kegs waited at McNally’s. Block Party is notoriously known for providing a lot of beer to attendees. During Choquette’s management, he ordered a trailer from Budweiser that had taps in it.

The manager of Block Party is always determined to outdo each previous year’s turnout.

Last year’s Block Party coordinator, Ian Luby ’13, noted that the standard had been significantly raised for him. Since the 2012 Block Party organizers nearly tripled the budget, it was his task to maintain that scale.

Chad Christoff ’10, 2010 Block Party coordinator, reminisced about upholding the Block Party legacy in an email to the S&B.

“[It is] hard to put an exact number on attendees, but I thought turnout was good and there was representation from a wide variety of students. And we had enough people to finish [more than] 40 kegs, so I think we accomplished what we set out to do,” Christoff wrote. “We worked hard to make Block Party as inclusive as possible while remaining true to various traditions.”

The event has always been a product of cooperative efforts of the students. In addition to organizing an auction to raise donations, numerous students devote their time to selling t-shirts and doing door-to-door fundraising. However, every year’s celebration has also been a collaborative effort with previous Block Party managers.

“We passed down a book, called the Block Party Bible, of the documents of the Block Parties from the past five years and all the receipts as well as suggestions,” said 2012 Block Party coordinator Matthew Rosenbaum ’12.

The Bible contained all sorts of knowledge needed to throw the party, such as contact information of people in town and recommendations for working with the College.

In more recent years, however, concern about managing Block Party has strayed away from providing drinks and food for students and moved to maintaining the self-governance of the attendees. Last year’s Block Party had to accommodate requests from the Grinnell Police Department to set up extra portable toilets and provide more non-alcoholic beverages.

This year, Marsho takes pride in leading the event with 14 other students who are part of the Block Party Committee.

“Block Party is one of the best traditions in the history of Grinnell College. To sell it short, at all, would be a disgrace,” Marsho wrote in an email to the S&B.

Choquette and his fellow peers would be proud of the legacy Block Party has become.

“That’s the cool thing about Grinnell, people just grab the torch and run with it,” Choquette said.

block party timeline

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