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Posted June 13, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Porch parties: Winchester neighbors keep summer tradition alive

Debora Shaw helps Brenda Schrank put pink flamingos outside
Debora Shaw, left, helps Brenda Schrank put pink flamingos outside the Schranks' home on Huntersridge Road in the Oakdale Crossing community, in Winchester, while the Schranks' labradoodle, Brio, watches. Members of the community hold rotating "porch parties" every Friday during the summer, and use flamingos to indicate where the next party will be. Rich Cooley/Daily

Ed Schrank leans on the community porch party sign
Ed Schrank leans on the community porch party sign outside his home. Schrank and his wife, Brenda, came up with the idea for the parties six years ago. Rich Cooley/Daily

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By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Barbecue, check.

Food and drinks, all set.

Flamingos? Planted on the front lawn.

When the porch parties begin, the residents of Oakdale Crossing, in Winchester, know summer has begun.

Friday nights in the neighborhood are reminiscent of an earlier time when neighbors used to actually loan each other a cup of sugar, when they would look out for each others' children and when they might have even come together for the holidays. For Ed Schrank and his wife, Brenda, this is just everyday life, and, during the summer, it's something they can look forward to each week.

"We've been doing this now for six years in our neighborhood," Schrank says. After he and his wife moved to Winchester from Colorado Springs, Colo., they wanted a way to meet the neighbors, make some friends and celebrate the beginning of each weekend with the whole family.

"That's the whole idea, so you don't have to go out, get a baby sitter, and also you always have something to do on a Friday night," he says.

The porch parties begin each year on Memorial Day weekend and will stretch through the dog days of summer to end on Labor Day weekend.

The parties are all family-friendly, he says, and the fact that they are outside allows children to run around and hosts to rest easy that their homes will not be destroyed. If the weather is unfavorable, Schrank says the party is usually canceled.

The Schranks hosted the kickoff party, which this year included a band.

"We had probably about 175 to 200 people," Schrank says. The majority of guests live in the neighborhood, but he says others come, as well.

"It's made just a huge difference in the neighborhood," he says. "A lot of the people in the neighborhood know each other, which is sort of a big thing in this day and age."

"We're regulars. We don't go every week, you know how you go when you can," says Christine Lippy, who, with her husband, Jeff, hosted a porch party on June 5. The Lippys have lived in the neighborhood for nine years and immediately took to the porch parties when the Schranks posed the idea to neighbors.

"It was just a good way to keep up with people as the neighborhood grew," Mrs. Lippy says. "Jeff and I love the porch parties. My kids think it is the best thing in the world."

The children, ages 13 and 15, go to spend time with their friends, and they dislike anything else getting in the way of their Friday night summer ritual, their mother says.

"It makes the best summer memories," she says.

Though the Schranks host the first and last party each summer, the rest of the neighborhood splits up the remainder of the dates.

"Most people just pick a weekend," says Mrs. Lippy. The Schranks keep a calendar of who is hosting when and make sure the host family has access to the pink flamingos, which sit in the yard on party day and point the way to the fun.

The Web site, www.theshranks. com, offers information about the parties, which family is hosting each week, and which dates are still open.

Mrs. Lippy has heard of similar neighborhood parties elsewhere, but nothing else like this.

"It's the most organized, and the most regular," she says. The neighbors also try to stay in touch throughout the year.

In September, they usually do a backyard movie night, Schrank says.

"Jeff and I usually have the Christmas party," says Mrs. Lippy. The Schranks plan caroling each December, and guests bring cookies for everyone. "During the school year it's hard," Mrs. Lippy says. The summer holidays make the weekly get-togethers more convenient.

"There's a lot of relationships that have formed because of meeting at the porch parties," Schrank says. He often receives comments like, "I wish our neighborhood would do something like this."

"It really is what makes it a great neighborhood to live in now," Mrs. Lippy says.

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