The first-ever Southside Community Gardens (SCG) First Friday potluck, held at the Maze Garden on June 4th as part of the First Friday festivities on Southside Bethlehem, was an important step for our project. Group members, volunteers, and friends worked hard to put on an inviting event in order to make the public aware of the work we are doing at community gardens on the Southside.

Though rain threatened to fall during the first hour, our spirits weren’t dampened, and when the storm clouds passed, a pleasant summer evening settled above the bustling activity occurring just beyond the southern banks of the Lehigh River. Soon a diverse turnout of folks—SCG group members working at our Maze and Ullman gardens, Lehigh students, faculty, and staff, Southside business owners and community members, graduates of the inaugural class of the Bethlehem Citizen’s Academy, and area residents active in the sustainability movement—made their way into the Maze Garden to see all the work we’ve done there since early May, while enjoying good food, music, and conversation with friends, both old and new. Not only did a friendly environment of growing community pervade the evening, but we also met a few new volunteers.

Along with the eclectic mix of homemade food prepared by attendees, anyone who stopped by the park had the option of taking home a free tomato plant, courtesy of SUN*LV and SCG. This proved to be a superb idea, as we provided a seemingly endless array of pleasantly surprised pedestrians, many of whom were out to enjoy the First Friday atmosphere on a cool June night, with a free, beautiful tomato plant while simultaneously drawing them into the garden to learn more about our project. Thanks to Judy Zimmerman, who together with her husband and two charming daughters worked all night to hand out plants and tell people about the SCG project. Julie Vitale and Matt and Molly Sanderson also spent large portions of the evening distributing plants and sharing information about SCG with passersby who happened by the Maze.

Thanks, also, to thank DJ Arm 18 (Andrew McIntosh), an adjunct professor at Lehigh who teaches a summer course on the history of Hip Hop. Andrew did a fantastic job providing musical entertainment throughout the evening, with assistance from Maria Zimmerman, one of Judy’s young daughters. Lou Cinquinio of SUN*LV, who provided the tomato plants, continues to be a great supporter and friend of our project; we are lucky to have the the folks at SUN*LV as a resource here in the Lehigh Valley for starting and supporting community gardens, so please take a second to learn about their important work. And, of course, thanks to everyone who volunteered their time and efforts to make the evening go so smoothly—cooking, bringing supplies, promoting the event, answering questions, cleaning up until late in the evening—as well as all those who stopped by during the night to see the Maze and learn more about SCG.

We’ll be hosting another First Friday potluck next month, on July 2nd, and we hope to see you there. While details are still in the works, we hope to have DJs affiliated with the Hip Hop Caucus and the Green the Block coalition join DJ Arm 18 on the turntables. Also, the gardeners working at the Maze have discussed the possibility of showing a documentary or other related movie in the park at some point this summer. We will be working out the specifics and feasibility of these upcoming summer events in the weeks and months ahead; please check back here regularly to learn more. We hope to see you next month!