Food trucks, yard games highlight Block Party plans at Reunion 2023

April 27, 2023 — Picture a beautiful Friday evening in June on Grinnell College’s campus with good food and great company. There’s a bounce house for the youngsters, Giant Jenga and cornhole for the competitive types, and let’s throw in a caricature artist just for fun.

Reunion 2023 attendees can experience all that and more during Block Party. Held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on June 2, Block Party is returning to the Reunion event lineup for the second year in place of many of the class dinners. 

Reunion goers enjoy food from food trucks at Reunion 2022.
Reunion attendees enjoy conversation and food during the 2022 Reunion Block Party. 

“Block Party feels very much like a festival or fair,” says Sophie Neems ’16, assistant director of young alumni programming, who is co-organizing the event with her alumni relations colleague Nino Parker ’07. “Early June in Iowa is a beautiful time of year to hang out with friends you haven’t seen in a while. And it’s an easy place to connect with new people by striking up a conversation. Eating at the food trucks is also a fun opportunity to explore the diversity of Iowa food culture.”

Food trucks lined up on Eighth Avenue will include Caribbean Kitchen, Cottonwood Canyon, Dari Barn, Hotsy Totsy, Karam’s Mediterranean Grill, La Calle, Scratch Cupcakes, and Sook’s Korean. Each attendee will be provided with tickets to exchange for food items. There also will be a beer and wine tent. Many of the trucks are repeat options from last year’s Block Party. 

“The food truck dinner was fantastic!” says Lisa Grant ’88 a Reunion 2022 attendee. “So much better than a class dinner. And the food option range was excellent.”

The Block Party will lead into class and cluster socials. The 55th Reunion and the 60th and 70th Reunion classes will still have class dinners on Friday evening.

Block Party originated a year ago largely because of COVID-19 related concerns prior to Reunion 2022. While COVID-19 cases in Iowa had declined, Reunion organizers last year thought it still would not be prudent to have large numbers of alums eating class dinners in confined inside spaces. The All-Reunion picnic shifted from Friday to Saturday evening (and became a barbecue) and the Block Party filled in on Friday evening. 

Alums at Reunion 2022 take a photo holding Dari Barn treats.
Alums at Reunion 2022 take a photo holding Dari Barn treats. There will be eight food trucks to choose from at this year’s Block Party. 

It turned out many Reunion 2022 attendees preferred the outdoor dinner setting and the chance to interact with Grinnellians across all classes. The Block Party and BBQ were among the favorite events of the weekend according to post-event survey responses.

“The outside meals were very well done,” says Carol Holton Dietrichs ’70. “These events allowed for interacting with a lot of people for short or longer periods of time. It was a perfect atmosphere.”

Two young Reunion attendees play Ring Toss.
   Ring toss returns at Block
   Party 2023

While COVID-19 numbers continue to plummet, it’s still on the mind of some attendees as well as Reunion organizers, Neems says. “Block Party is returning because it was fun, and people enjoyed it.” she says. “The fact it is also sensible from a health and safety standpoint is an added bonus.”

Block Party was also praised last year as a kid-friendly option, Neems says. A sizable number of parents are bringing their children to Reunion this year.  

Block Party will include several yards games, activities, and entertainment options appealing to all ages. Attendees can participate in Yard Checkers, Ring Toss, Cornhole, Yard-Zee and giant versions of Jenga, Connect Four, and Twister. 

The bounce house will return this year along with face painting and a caricature artist. Families can also partake in drawing with sidewalk chalk and coloring books, blowing bubbles, and applying temporary tattoos.  

“I really appreciate all the kid friendly activities at the Block Party,” says Caroline Lowry ’00

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Online registration for Reunion 2023 is now closed. Those wishing to register in person during Reunion weekend, can do so beginning at 8 a.m. on Thursday, June 1. Check out a preliminary schedule of Reunion events and see what alums have signed up to attend.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive and like the Alumni & Friends Facebook page.