Too often, we shut ourselves away inside our homes, none too eager to meet the neighbors—even on those rare occasions when the Texas weather remains the same for a few days at a time. However, the city of Houston’s annual initiative aimed at promoting health, wellness and community interaction is coming fast to Leader country to try and change that mindset.
On Sunday, March 26, Cigna Sunday Streets will finally make its long-awaited debut in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area as part of the city’s annual initiative to promote and improve the health of Houstonians. The Garden Oaks route will run along West 43rd Street from Ella Boulevard to Rosslyn Road.
“We’re trying to get to as many neighborhoods as we can to try and spread the fun of this event, because it’s a fun event for the neighborhood,” said Susan Christian, director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. “We’ve never gone to this neighborhood before, and we wanted to spread the love.”
While Mother Nature forced the city to cancel the event back in December, Christian said the community’s enthusiasm never dimmed, in part due to their inclusion in deciding the specs of the event.
“We provide the infrastructure and set up community meetings, but it’s really up to the community,” Christian said, noting that as much as 90 percent of the activities are based on suggestions from residents. “We really focus on what they think would be a fabulous event in their neighborhood, and they add to the activities.”
Events such as Cigna Sunday Streets would not be complete (or possible) without the involvement of the community, and Sunday’s proceedings promise not to disappoint.
The Friends of Oak Forest Park will be in attendance, with activities taking place on the Oak Forest Elementary front lawn at 1401 W. 43rd St. Festivities include family-friendly fitness, lawn games, an art tile painting fundraiser and Idea Lab STEM projects. Donations to the organization will be contributed to the future playground for all abilities in honor of Vicki Flanery, a beloved substitute and retired HISD teacher who was part of the Oak Forest community.
“It’s a large-scale community gathering, and a large part of our group mission is community outreach and letting them know what we’re doing at Oak Forest Park,” said Elyssa Horvath, director for Friends of Oak Forest Park. “This was an opportunity to be involved with the community on a large scale. Thousands come from around the city, so this is a great way for us to spread the word about what our mission is.”
Further along the trail, route-goers will encounter the Waltrip High School and Frank Black Middle School marching bands providing musical entertainment, while Scarborough High School’s Class of 2017 will conduct a fundraiser. If residents are a part of the arts crowd, the First Saturday Art Market will have a booth set up, and food trucks will be at locations throughout the route for residents to re-charge. As Christian noted, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.
“It’s just really a collection of people and businesses in the neighborhood providing a lot of different activities other than riding a bike or skateboarding or just enjoying walking the route,” she said.
Benefits for all
As folks proceed along 43rd Street, encountering many neighbors they have seen, and some they have not, they will witness what it looks like when each of a neighborhood’s cogs all work in unison. Such a conglomeration and intertwining of a community’s various parts along with health and fitness, Christian said, is vital to the quality of life of a neighborhood, its individual residents and the city as a whole.
“If you’re going to have a vibrant city, you need to have healthy neighborhoods. It’s about supporting this whole idea of civic mindedness and bringing the community together to celebrate it. That is fundamental to our way of thinking here,” she said.
“This really focuses on the neighborhood. It’s so much fun, because no matter where it’s staged, people from other neighborhoods come. It’s a very personal, intimate way to get to know a neighborhood.”