Here is a great idea – and we hope we are wrong – but it will fail because it has not been properly promoted.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  June 14, 2012   The city wants its citizens to take to the streets – get out on the road and meet the neighbours during Front Yard Barbecue Week, June 23 to July 1.

It takes organization and some planning to hold a successful street party - Burlington is calling them Front Yard BBQ's. Properly done they pull people out of their back yards and into streets, where they can meet neighbours they have lived beside for years but never got to meet.

“Hosting social events like neighbourhood barbecues help residents get to know one another, creating a strong sense of community,” said Councillor Blair Lancaster, council representative for Burlington’s inclusivity advisory committee. “This is a great opportunity to bring our neighbourhoods to life and celebrate Burlington as an inclusive, vibrant city.”

For residents who live in apartment buildings, a similar event can take place in the common courtyard.  Community barbecues can range in size from two or three families, involving a small amount of planning, to larger scale events requiring such city permits as street party permits.

Not a word on how to actually get a permit or some detail on when you need a permit and what the cost is?  Just a link to a city web site.

The city recently held a Car Free Sunday that had months of planning put into it with the resources of the Parks and Recreation department behind it as well as support from the Regional Police and the fire departments.  Not to mention the money spent by the city getting T-shirts made up and funds to pay for a neat band.

There were pony rides that probably had to be paid for.  The turnout wasn’t bad for a first time effort.  But there was a lot of effort put in by city staff.

Then along comes an idea to get people out of their back yards and meet their neighbours.  It already happens in some parts of the city.  You see people who live on streets  that run into New Street out with their BBQ’s enjoying a nosh and a beer with their neighbours.

In a correction to the original press release there was an update on street party permits.

These press releases tend to go out to the media who then have to re-work the material (what comes out of city hall is pretty bare bones and tends to lack in terms of detail).

There is probably a law saying I can't drink my glass of wine as I cross the street to meet my neighbour who is having his Front Yard BBQ..

Can I wander around my street chatting up my neighbours with a glass of wine in hand while the kids scoot about on a skate board and the younger ones whistle around on their three wheelers?  Not a word about that in the city hall press release.

No encouragement from any of the Councillors.  Could the Mayor not have come up with a prize to be given to the Council member whose ward had the best street party – and the prize would be a BBQ given by the Mayor for the winners from each Ward?

Things like this don’t just happen because the city issued a press release with some instructions on what I can and can’t do with the propane tank that fuels my BBQ.

The idea came up at a council committee meeting about a month ago.  We expected to see some almost immediate follow up from the Ward councillors and an ongoing stream of information.

The next thing the media saw – a couple of weeks later – was a press release, which in this case was followed up within the hour with a correction.

All this comes in the day before Sound of Music Festival starts.  The first of the Front Yard BBQ’s could be on the 23rd.

This idea is headed for the tank – which is unfortunate because Burlingtonians do need to get out and meet their neighbours – getting the BBQ’s out of the back yard is a really good idea – 2012 is not likely to be the time for this in Burlington.  Better planning and some budget for this would help.

A Street Party could have a theme that focuses on the kids - here we have a couple of "princesses" setting up their table.

If you do decide to try something like this on your street – here is what the city is passing out in terms of helpful information.

Here are some tips on how to host your own front yard barbecue this summer:

Plan your barbecue in advance to ensure you have the necessary city permits, and that your local community knows your street will be closed for the night.

Send out invitations to create awareness and a sense of who will be coming.

Designate groceries to different families.  For example, one family will bring appetizers, another buns and bread.

Get creative. Select a cultural dish to share or ask everyone to bring their favourite food or beverage or organize games that are fun for all ages, such as road hockey or basketball.

Budget for the cost of food and permits.

When barbecuing, the Burlington fire department recommends keeping grills at least one metre away from your house, fence, deck, or other combustible material. Additional fire safety tips for barbecuing include:

Grills should not be used in enclosed areas such as garages or balconies.

Always use and store propane barbecues and tanks outside.

Make sure burner ports are free of rust and openings are clear of dust and cobwebs.

Check cylinder connection and hoses for leaks by brushing a 50/50 mix of liquid soap and water. If bubbles appear when valve is opened, tighten connections.  (Is there a breathing human being in Burlington, who doesn’t know how to handle a BBQ propane tank?)

Remember when firing up your BBQ, open the lid first and strike match or lighter before turning on the gas.

Transport propane cylinders safely in an upright position in vehicles and keep windows open.

We can do better than this – can’t we?


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