A Neighborhood Story–Part II

In A Neighborhood Story, I described the background for the “Rene Drive Potluck” on October 4.  To quickly recap,  invitational flyers had been distributed to each home a month in advance and a reminder invitation was distributed the week before the event.

Violating conventional wisdom, sign-up lists for dishes were not circulated.  People were simply invited to come and asked: “To bring your favorite dish, beverage, and chair and join the rest of the neighbors.”  Organizers were prepared to have no one respond or, in the alternative, to be faced with several varieties of potato salad.

Come the big day, tables and chairs started to appear in front of some of the homes. Ken Burnett from the Public Works Department (second from the left in the photo below) stopped by and gave advice on how and where to set up the street barricades…

Ken Burnett

In short order, people, chairs, and tables with umbrellas started to arrive and the event took on a life of its own.  The food tables quickly filled up with shepherd’s pie, enchiladas, rice, hot dogs, chili, beans, dips, homemade liver pate, fresh fruit, salads, chicken mole, cupcakes, flan, and (my favorite) a large bowl of  watermelon cubes. It was a feast…a cornucopia

As the day progressed, the dishes were “reloaded” as needed. I attempted to capture some of the scenes with my camera but admit that I missed a lot.  Frankly, I lost focus (unintended pun) because of the food table. 

As an aside, the potluck was set up in front of a house that was for sale.  Several realtors with prospective buyers had to pass through to get to the house. 

They were told they could join in if they bought the house…



Rene Drive Restaurant


“This has never happened before! This was a great idea.”

“I’ve lived here for 30 years and hardly know anyone on this street!”

“Can we do this every year?”

“Let’s do it next September.”

“Hi, I’m …”

“Ours is 15 months. I know what it’s like having a new baby.”


Faces 1Faces 3Faces 2 Faces 4Faces 5


3 thoughts on “A Neighborhood Story–Part II

  1. Pingback: A neighborhood gathering… – Petaluma Spectator - Petaluma 360 - Petaluma, CA - Archive

  2. Frank, Great pictures. This was truly a wonderful day. Enjoyed by all. I have been talking to some of my friends, I have gotten nothing but positive feedback. How nice it was to see so many smiling faces. Young and old. Thanks for all your help, It may have been my idea. But without your organizing skills and the Dept of Public Works understanding of getting to know your neighbors, it would have never happened. Thanks to the City and Thanks to You.

    • Going forward, can this experience be replicated elsewhere in Petaluma? Every street and neighborhood is different. On the other hand, they are probably more similar than not once you get past perceptions and assumptions. The temporary use of a street for such family oriented neighborhood gatherings is the perfect neutral place for everyone to get together for a few hours if they care to join in.

      There is some initial groundwork required to secure permission from the City to use part of a street. It will not be possible in all cases due to traffic flow requirements. On the other hand, there may be ways to work around this by getting permission to use part of the public sidewalks. Each case will be different. But the application of a little judgment and creative thinking will usually win the day.

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