Rebecca Metraux Canna

Rebecca 001Rebecca Metraux Canna – 4600 Hazel Avenue

They call themselves the Hazelnuts. And Rebecca Metraux Canna is their captain.

Canna, soft-spoken with a friendly smile, took over as block captain four years ago. “I love to plan events. I love West Philly. I thought I could contribute.”

The Hazelnuts love to party. They apply for five summer block party permits at a time. For more than a quarter of a century they have been hosting an annual progressive dinner party, during which 30 or so Hazelnuts eat a three-course potluck dinner, each course hosted by a different household.  There are house concerts with famous musicians and impromptu happy hours on the large front porches of the nearly identical Edwardian twin homes. On Halloween, the Hazelnuts decorate their homes and treat generously.

For all the events and the business of the block, Canna uses block’s listserv and Facebook page to communicate. Canna is a psychologist; she likes to create surveys to understand how folks feel about things. When the block was considering permit parking, Canna used online surveys to get a consensus. “It was very contentious and took three votes to get it approved,” recalls Richard Olaya, a Hazelnut, a former Hazelnut captain, and a father of two.

Canna continues to think of new ways to be social. One Sunday this month, she is hosting a Sunday coffee and dessert get-together. “It might get people out of their houses during the winter,” she says.

The children party, too, in their own way. There are skateboarders and four-square games. The Manhunt tag games spill over into other blocks. Olaya took an informal census recently (surveys may be another Hazelnut tradition) and counted 36 kids living on the block. Some of the annual block parties are less structured so the kids can play freely on the blocked-off street.

Canna hopes to keep a kid-friendly culture on Hazel Avenue for her seven-month-old daughter, Lorelei. Already, she has been enlisting Lorelie to help with her captain duties. “She’s a good ice-breaker. I take her when I go around collecting the [$10] block fees. I don’t know everyone on the block, so Lorelie makes my introductions easier.”