The Westchester Arts & Music Block Party offers up food, drink, live performances, and activities for all ages in support of a good cause.
By Maureen Kingsley
Westchester's Art & Music Block Party has attracted thousands in recent years.
Folks of all ages who love a good street party and live entertainment are invited to attend this month’s Westchester Arts & Music (WAM) Block Party, held on Emerson Avenue in Westchester just north of El Segundo. Free, family-friendly, and in its sixth year, the street festival takes place on Saturday, September 18 from 11am to 9pm and features live music and dance performances, food trucks, art and commercial vendors, and “the best beer and wine garden around,” according to founder and organizer John Sharpe, a longtime Westchester resident. The event also benefits local non-profits, primarily the Emerson Avenue Community Garden, a one-acre plot tended by community members on the campus of Orville Wright STEAM Magnet Middle School.
“After last year’s necessarily virtual WAM Block Party and 2019’s in-person event that attracted five-thousand attendees, we are expecting a really great turnout this year,” John says, and he enthusiastically welcomes residents of all neighboring cities to visit this year’s event.
At the time of this writing, ten bands had been booked to perform at the WAM Block Party this September.
A musician himself and a professional representative of commercial artists, John created the first WAM Block Party in 2015. “Westchester is known for its block parties and outdoor celebrations,” he explains, having thrown many of those block parties himself in his nearly 30 years as a resident. “This community loves to celebrate, including holidays, like Halloween and Mardi Gras,” he adds. John combined that festive neighborhood spirit with his desire to bring art and music back to town to conceive of the first WAM Block Party. “The art and music scene was languishing a bit here at the time,” he says.
John also sought to raise funds for the Emerson Community Garden, a one-acre community space on Emerson Avenue with which he has long been actively involved. He believes strongly in the power of community gardens to enhance quality of life and bring neighbors together. Combining all of these interests, John produced the inaugural WAM Block Party to benefit the garden while providing a large-scale outdoor art and music event for the community.
“That first event in 2015 attracted a couple thousand attendees,” he says. “It brought in a lot of new energy, young families, Silicon Beach professionals...and it made some money for our garden.”
The second year, John says, he added a wine and beer garden sponsored by a local real-estate company, and in the years that have followed—with the exception of 2020, the pandemic-shutdown year—the event has grown steadily, bringing in a wide variety of performers and vendors and attracting more and more visitors.
Children are welcome at the WAM Block Party, which includes plenty of family-friendly activities.
At the time of this writing, planning for this year’s WAM Block Party event was well underway by John and a small group of dedicated volunteers. By early August, ten bands had been booked, spanning the genres of indie rock, blues, gospel, Americana, and pop. Forty vendors had signed on, including artisans, fine artists, and local schools and organizations. “We are aiming to hire 10 food trucks,” John adds, and the beer and wine garden will feature products from Firestone and Walkers brands. Art and craft activities are planned, and the community garden—the event’s main beneficiary—will be open for touring.
The quarter-mile-long WAM Block Party takes place on Emerson Avenue between W 80th Street and W 80th Place on September 18 from 11am-9pm. Visit wamblockparty.org and @WAMblockparty on social media for more information and for performer and vendor lists.
Photos provided by John Sharpe.
This story appears in the September 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.