The real scoop on local politics and social events in Midtown will come in several flavors when Palo Alto City Council and school board candidates dish out free ice cream at the Midtown Residents Association Ice Cream Social on Sept. 18.
The neighborhood's annual tradition for the past 15 years has attracted between 200 and 300 residents, and organizers expect the same crowds this year. The ice cream social, 1-4 p.m. at Hoover Park, will also kick off the election season by giving residents a chance to talk to council and school board candidates, city officials and staff.
But it is not all politics and neighborhood issues. There will be dozens of activities and booths for individuals and families, including live music, a book giveaway, a fire truck, the city's Office of Emergency Services command vehicle, face painting and sand art for kids. Nearly 20 information tables on emergency preparedness, Avenidas, Deborah's Palm, Palo Alto Historical Association, Museum of American Heritage, Canopy, and city services such as Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Utilities will be set up. There is also a prize drawing, association Chairwoman Sheri Furman and Vice-Chair Annette Glanckopf said.
"It's our big event of the year to build community and neighborhood, and we also want to find out what people think about issues -- and to get more people involved in the association," Furman said.
On Monday, sitting in Furman's living room, she and Glanckopf ticked off a mental list of the supplies they will need for the event: canopies, biodegradable cups and utensils, 500 ice cream cups and 50 pounds of sand for the kids' art, along with keepsake containers.
Will the popcorn machine they had last year be available? Furman wanted to know. The owner is on sabbatical for a year in Ghana, so Glanckopf is working out how to get it.
Other plans are still in the works. Association members are working to line up the Palo Alto Police Department's K-9 unit; and the Palo Alto firefighters might also cook their popular chili again.
And then, there's the perennial question: How much ice cream to buy? Stepheny McGraw, who is in charge of procuring the main attraction, said she estimates guests will go through at least 15 to 18 gallons of ice cream in three flavors.
Furman and Glanckopf said the ice cream social has evolved with the times and the community. This year Save Our Ground Water will have a table to inform residents about one of the city's more recent hot-button topics: construction "dewatering," which is when thousands of gallons of water are pumped out of the ground as basements are built.
Furman said the increasing diversity of attendees is the biggest change she's seen over 15 years. Many more Asian families now come to the event. She and Glanckopf said they hope to build a more inclusive association, and they encourage visitors to stop by the welcome table.
"We know who and how to deal with issues and we provide a resource and interface," Furman said, offering a few selling points to the value of a neighborhood-association membership.
Glanckopf added that for new immigrants seeking ways to integrate as Americans, a neighborhood association offers many opportunities.
"I really think it's very important. It's a great stepping stone to getting involved and getting to know your community and your neighborhood," she said.