A Playful Event Series Returns to Garfield Park This Summer

West Garfield Park residents play oversized chess at a PlayStreets event on July 17. | Igor Studenkov

Full Article from Austin Weekly News

The Garfield Park Community Council (GPCC) has relaunched its PlayStreets summer outdoor event series after a 1-year pandemic-induced hiatus, but the pandemic is still informing many aspects of the event.

For the past 10 years, GPCC held outdoor events in East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park to encourage the community to come together, get connected to resources and enjoy activities, games and free food.  

Due to the concerns about vaccination disparities in Black communities and the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, PlayStreets organizers have emphasized safety during the events. Unvaccinated residents will be able to get their shots at every event and organizers are encouraging attendees to wear masks and social-distance.

This year’s first PlayStreets event took place on July 17 around the Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden, 4427 W. Fulton St.

The next PlayStreets event will take place on July 31 at Herban Produce urban farm, 2900 W. Van Buren, at 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and three more events are planned in August.

While the July 17 event only saw one person get vaccinated, the attendees and neighbors agreed that the opportunity to get together and do something positive was welcome, especially after roughly a year of limited gatherings.

PlayStreets are organized by Angela Taylor, GPCC’s wellness coordinator. The July 17 event was located on the block where she and her husband, Sammie Taylor, live. She said that the event didn’t go away entirely in 2020. They still held virtual events. In 2021, she is trying to balance having people together outdoors and keeping them as safe as possible.

“We’re still masked up, still social distancing, while still bringing the residents together for something positive,” Taylor said. “We’re trying to promote that we can come together and not hug. We can do things like bike-riding and still social distance.”

Taylor and most volunteers wore masks, but while masks were encouraged, they were not required. Taylor also personally went around the block, asking her neighbors whether they were vaccinated and encouraged the ones that did to take advantage of the opportunity. Several responded that they already got vaccinated while one said that he considered taking a vaccine, but he got scared off.

In addition to the vaccination tent, the July 17 PlayStreets featured a cooking demonstration, games, and toys and books giveaways. Representatives with the Garfield Park Conservatory handed out kids’ activity kits.

Working Bikes, a Pilsen-based nonprofit bike shop at 2434 S Western Ave., whose board of directors Taylor serves on, gave away bikes and organized a bike ride around the nearby blocks at the start of the event. According to Working Bikes board member Phil Caplan, residents who got bikes will be able to get them fixed at the shop for free.

“We gave away over 50 bikes today,” he said. “Getting the bikes brings people together and enables them to get around and run errands.”

John Ware, a longtime resident, mostly watched the festivities from his porch. He said that his block has a very strong block club, with many events taking place throughout the year and he was pleased with this one.

“I think Mr. and Mrs. Taylor do a great job putting together community events,” he said. “It was a nice bike giveaway for kids in the neighborhood.”

For more information about PlayStreets events, visit https://www.gpcommunitycouncil.org/programs/playstreets.