‘Crescent Capers’ Maplewood Block Party Tradition Stands the Test of Time


North & South Crescent block party founder Ellie Winslow passed the torch to a new generation of neighbors.

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When my husband and I chose Maplewood as the place to raise our young family in 2012, we did so almost entirely based on our experience visiting friends who moved here several years before. We found the perfect home on South Crescent during an open house and it didn’t occur to us until our offer was accepted that this block might not be as warm and welcoming as the street our friends lived on. 

Soon after we moved in, I was in our front yard trying to figure out what was growing in the lovely garden we inherited. A man who was walking his dog stopped to introduce himself. After telling me his name and pointing out his house, he said, ”You just moved onto the street with the best block party in town. You will meet everyone there in September.” 

1986 Crescent Capers sign

It wasn’t long before I learned we lived just a few houses up from the woman who started the party in 1984. Eleanor “Ellie” Winslow, I was told, worked in the local library and was known as an unofficial keeper of Maplewood history. When I met Ellie, who was also active in the Maplewood Garden Club, she came to my yard to identify my plants and trees and give me advice on how to care for them. She also told me the story of how she and her late husband, John Winslow, M.D., came up with the idea to host a block party for both North Crescent and South Crescent and named it “Crescent Capers.” John passed away in 2003, but she continued to lead a committee that made the party happen every year. It was evident from this first conversation just how important the event was for Ellie.

Ellie and John (and Penny) in 1999

The first couple of years we lived here, my children were very young and consumed much of my attention at the annual block party, which draws between 110 and 130 people. But I understood immediately why it was considered such an important part of the culture on our block. With the streets closed, the children play without having to watch for cars. A large inflatable is a staple as is the potluck meal. The “ticket” price covers burgers, dogs, drinks and desserts. But the neighbors bring the appetizers and side dishes, going out of their way to bring delicious homemade favorites. Each year, there’s usually some other entertainment, such as a petting zoo, wine tasting, puppet show or a face painter. 

In early 2014, Ellie asked me and another neighbor to come to her house for a meeting. She let us know she was looking for the next generation to help with the block party. But she also made it clear she wanted us to take it over at some point in the future. The “Crescent Capers” party was a source of immense pride for Ellie and she needed to know it would continue even if she decided to move someday. As the block party was one of many reasons I’d fallen in love with Maplewood, I accepted the responsibility. That year was the 30th anniversary of the event and we made it extra special with commemorative picnic blankets and other little touches. 

Ellie and John, undated

Ellie remained involved in party planning until 2017 when she decided to begin the next chapter of her life in Pennsylvania, where she currently resides. Every year, we invite Ellie to the block party. In the years she can’t make it, we send her pictures and give her updates on who is still here and who has moved on. We even held a socially distanced bring-your-own event in 2020 to ensure we didn’t miss a year of our nearly four-decade tradition. 

This past Saturday, we hosted the 39th annual block party. We had just finished setting up when the lightning and thunder started. We canceled some of the entertainment but crossed our fingers that we could still get outside to re-inflate the obstacle course, offer glitter tattoos to the kids and share a burger and a beer with our neighbors. It didn’t look optimistic for about an hour, but the sun suddenly appeared and the dark clouds seemed to be moving in the right direction. My husband drove our car around the block, honking the horn to let people know it was time to party. The doors of all the homes opened simultaneously and we walked up to the top of our streets to make the most of it. We stayed out after dark and felt an even deeper appreciation for the opportunity to be together.

Next year, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the block party. There are many new neighbors who never met Ellie. But her legacy lives on through Crescent Capers. 

2015 balloon toss


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