A FAMILY-STYLE BLOCK PARTY, OPEN TO ALL

family-reunionDale Bass-Weems helped organize a family reunion block party on Drs. James Parker Boulevard, shown in the background, on Saturday.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

When Dale Bass-Weems, Anita Daniels and Jennifer Bennett — three childhood friends — came back to visit Red Bank last year, it was on the worst of terms. A friend had died, and they were reconnecting with a lot of their old pals in a funeral home.

It was a watershed moment for the three women who grew up on the West Side.

“We decided we were tired of coming home for a funeral. Why can’t we come back for better reasons?” Daniels, now of Asbury Park, said.

She thought back to the time she was growing up, in the late 1970s, when each summer would end with a neighborhood block party. But at some point, the events had stopped, as people moved away and connections loosened.

Daniels, Bass-Weems and Bennett resolved to bring those days back.

As block party season gets going, the three friends are kicking it off with a shebang that resurrects an old West Side tradition: what they’re calling the Red Bank Family Reunion Block Party.

For the last year, the women put in the work to make the reunion, to be held Saturday on Drs. James Parker Boulevard, between Bridge and Shrewsbury avenues, a possibility. They spread the word, lined up three local bands, brought in some merchants and sponsors, and are throwing a party that they see as a recurring event for summers to come — just like old times.

“When we lived in Red Bank, it was a close-knit community. Everybody knew everybody. Everybody’s mom knew everybody’s kids. It was a village,” said Bass-Weems, who now lives in Howell. “This is our childhood. It will be successful, and it will come back.”

If it does, it will fall in a line of annual bashes that happen throughout the borough around this time. A slew of block parties are scheduled between now and September. Among them: Elm Place will hold its annual party on September 18. South Street will hold its 26th from 3 to 10p on September 10.

The West Side block party will be held from noon to 6p, and Daniels says all are welcome. All proceeds from the party will go to Lunch Break.

“We’re just looking forward to seeing old friends,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about — seeing our Red Bank family again.”