Northeast neighborhood holds socially-distanced porch concert

Pendleton Heights resident John Bordeau performed in the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood for a small group on Saturday night. Photo courtesy of Shane Wilson

Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood residents had the opportunity to meet their neighbors and enjoy live music on the evening of Sat., Aug 29 at the corner of Bellefontaine and Thompson Avenues.

On Play Music on the Porch Day, Pendleton Heights resident John Bordeau performed a variety of covers for the audience from John Denver to Irish music, and from the 70s to now. About 30 neighbors showed up, and others stopped to listen as they walked their dogs.

Neighborhood Association Vice President Leslie Caplan said she enjoyed the opportunity to meet new neighbors.

Ice cream, chips and water were available, but organizers encouraged neighbors to bring their own snacks and beverages, as well as chairs and blankets. The event was open to the public, not just residents of the neighborhood.

“Two of the key components of a successful block watch program are people knowing their neighbors and being outside enjoying their neighborhood,” according to organizers.

While the sentiment of getting to know her neighbors sounds nice, neighbor Janice James can’t shake the bad feeling she has about the spread of COVID-19.

Like many, James has been quarantining inside her home for nearly six months. She visits the grocery store every few weeks and is very cautious about who she lets in her home.

“I don’t appreciate this at this time,” said James, who lives two houses down from the event. “The coronavirus thing is still going on, it’s not a done deal, and for everybody to do this I think it’s not good.”

James didn’t initially think the virus was a big deal back in February, but after falling ill for weeks with a bad flu and being a smoker, she realized she should take the recommended precautions – and she hopes others do too.

At the concert, social distancing and masks were required for those near people outside one’s household.

“We had lots of space, and so people were good about that,” Caplan said. “If they were family, then they didn’t feel the need to wear them, that was fine. Our deal was that as long as they weren’t around other people then they didn’t have to wear their mask if it was just their family.”

Although masks were required at the event, she doubted how many people actually wore them between eating and drinking. James called 311 and the Kansas City Police Department non-emergency number in the days leading up to the event to get their advice on how to handle the situation. She was told the most the city could do would be to check for a permit violation after the fact.

“I think it’s crazy to get people together like this, and I’m especially vulnerable, especially upset about it being right outside my door,” James said.

She said although the event promotes getting to know her neighbors, not one has offered to help her.

“There’s a lot of young people and they just think the world will go on no matter what, but really kind of scares me, this coronavirus thing,” James said, recalling listening to her grandmother tell stories about the flu in 1918.

Kansas City has been under an emergency order for COVID-19 since March 12. Everyone within city limits must wear a face covering or mask while indoors in an area of public accommodation when the physical distancing requirement of six feet cannot be met.

Caplan said the “spur of the moment” event was put together to coincide with the annual holiday.

“I happened to see it and I thought well, let’s just give it a shot because we’ve all been in our houses so much and haven’t seen the neighbors,” Caplan said. “I just asked John if he would be willing, and so there it happened within like a week or so.”

The association will play it by ear on future small gatherings, but it takes people willing to step up and say they want to organize such events.

Shane Wilson, who hosted the event on his property, thought the night went really well. 

“I loved that the event took place and am very grateful for Leslie and her volunteers’ hard work to make it happen,” Wilson said. “Of course, I’m grateful to John Bordeau as well for donating his time and talent.”

He was happy to see longtime and new neighbors, as well as visitors from outside the neighborhood who came by and got to see how great Historic Northeast is.

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