With their subdivision of The Vines growing, and outdoor COVID protocols becoming less restrictive, a group of neighbours on the Paradise Grove cul-de-sac decided it was time to get to know each other.
Loraine and David Craig, the first to have their house construction completed, moved onto the street two years ago. They’ve been in Niagara-on-the-Lake for about 15 years, but as more houses were finished and new neighbours arrived, they learned it was an eclectic group of people from across the country, with different ethnic backgrounds, most of them new to the area.
There are the Craigs and five others at the head of the cul-de-sac, those who have been on the street the longest, and when the Craigs and other neighbours who arrived on the street shortly after them decided to hold an event to get to know the newcomers, “suddenly I became in charge,” Loraine laughs.
They first planned to do a Diner en Blanc, similar to what has been done in the town in the past, but decided to relax the rules a little.
Traditionally it would mean everyone would be dressed in white, with white table linens and accessories, but they chose to be a little more casual. However, like other such events, each household would provide and set up a table.
To make sure everyone was comfortable with the level of socializing, especially with the pandemic, says Loraine, she offered two alternatives: neighbours could eat their own food at their own table if they wished, then mingle to meet the others on their street, or they could join a share and greet table, with those who chose to providing and introducing their favourite cultural dish or drinks for neighbours while they strolled and enjoyed meeting and mingling.
“Most are double-vaccinated and we were outdoors, so it seemed a safe way to get together. We just wanted a plan that would make everyone feel safe and comfortable.
With so many people from different cultures and different parts of the world on such a small street, Loraine decided to go with a multicultural-themed celebration, and suggested if her neighbours were so inclined, they could include their national flag, which several did.
Some chose to include a Canadian flag as well, as did the Craigs — natives of Scotland, they had the red maple leaf and a Scottish flag.
Loraine lists the nationalities she can remember, which included Canadian, Guyanese, Italian, Indian, English, Jamaican, Scottish, German, Portuguese, Ukrainian, and Ghanaian. There may have been others, she says, and likely will be more in the future.
Some of the drinks and food that were provided were Italian tiramisu and the alcoholic drink Prosecco; Indian Samosas and a dessert of gulab jamun, Jamaican jerk pork; Scottish Sangria — people got a kick out of the concept of adding whisky to wine and fruit, says Loraine — with potato scones. Also shared were Guyanese chicken and rice hot pot, Canadian Caesar cocktails, Ghanaian chicken soup, English sausage rolls, and Ukrainian perogies and sauerkraut.
It was so much fun, Loraine says, after months of not being able to get together, she expects it to become an annual event. This year, they had 35 people attend, representing 15 houses. There were 20 houses completed by the time of the dinner, but not all residents had moved in. By next summer, there should be a total of 68 homes, she says.
She jokes that because she took charge, some of her neighbours were calling her El Presidente, “but next year, I’ll pass along the wooden spoon and the title, and others can take turns organizing it.”
Although she didn’t know all her neighbours very well, she has discovered “they’re a sociable group, and we had a lot of fun. It was organized to be held from 6 to 8 p.m.,” she says, “and there were still some out on the street at 1:30 a.m. Quite a lot of people stayed out until then.”