The Lumberjack

Sister city ties

Photo by Sebastian Lindner | Volunteer cook, Tom, BBQ’s chicken at the 33rd Annual I st. Block Party Sept. 3 in Arcata.

I Street block party helps Arcata fund sister city Camoapa, Nicaragua

Hosted over the Labor Day weekend, Arcata had its 33rd Annual I Street Block Party located on I street between 10th and 11th street outside of Los Bagels. This annual block party continued its fundraiser for the Arcata Sister City Project.

All proceeds raised from the block party went to the outreach city of Camoapa in Nicaragua, which has been connected with the city of Arcata since the 80’s.

Thirty years ago the citizens of Arcata wanted to have a sister city in the country of Nicaragua, and then mayor of Arcata, Thea Gast, believed it to be a great idea but wanted to make sure it was a supported issue.

“I wanted it to be supported by a broad range of people in the city, rather than some that were against what was happening at that time politically with the Nicaraguan Revolution between the Condinstas and Contras,” Gast said.

To Gast, it was a political statement to support the people rather than supporting the fighting that was going on in Nicaragua.

The block party originally started off as donations sent to the city to help fund the now recognized sister city in Camoapa. After three years of receiving donations from the citizens of Arcata, founder/owner of Los Bagels, Dennis Rael, was one the first project members to help create the I Street Block Party, and continues to host the party there since 1985.

“Everybody here donates their time. Every year we come close to netting $10,000 that goes straight into the project,” Rael said.

The fundraiser goes to different projects that the Arcata Sister City Project have on going. Currently the Arcata Sister City Project run some scholarships in school programs in Nicaragua. In the past they have redone medical clinics, dental clinics, and help set up preschools.

One of the first trips down to Camoapa a bus was taken down that was filled with medical supplies, school supplies, and clothing. The bus was also donated to help with transportation for the locals.

Since that first trip down to Camoapa, the city of Arcata has continued to do a great service for their sister city. A recent 8-year-project to get a hospital in Camoapa and a steady source of water was completed. A well was dug and a transit line and pump were installed.

According to Chuck Swanson, staff engineer at SHN Engineers & Geologists, Inc., there is a lot of bureaucracy which ends up slowing that progress down.

“There is local politics down there that turn over and change regularly, and when that happens a lot of the opinions and support for these projects change as well,” Swanson said.

Project member David Maccuish likes the idea of keeping close relationships with the communities.

“Progression I don’t think is the right word, I think it’s a continuance of the relationship,” Maccuish said. “People from both cities like each other. We have created a lot of bonds between a lot people in these two communities and maintaining those bonds are very important. What is important is that the love between the two communities stays strong.”

Monday’s block party was a good representation of the love in Arcata. Steady beats flowed through the streets that came from the parking lot of Los Bagels that had old and young people alike dancing to music. The hungry conjured to the hot grill that provided patrons with barbeque chicken, grilled fish, and tofu.

For 33 years the Arcata-Camoapa Sister City Project has had people going south and north, connecting families from Arcata and Camoapa.

Nora Wynne, a member of the Sister City Committee for about 20 years summed up the importance of what the connection between the block party and what it does for Arcata and Camoapa.

“The most important thing it does is create real people to people relationships,” Wynne said. “With that, peace is more likely in the world, because you know people and you know what their struggles are.”