Madison Valley neighbors gather for barbecue, advocacy</p><p>

For the third consecutive year the Greater Madison Valley Community Council hosted its annual barbecue on the kid friendly grounds of The Valley School at 309 31st Ave. E. Temperatures in the low-90s dominated into the late afternoon and early evening when the gathering was held. With an atmosphere mellowed by the heat, around 200 neighbors milled about the lawns and school decks, seeking adult and elementary-school sized picnic tables draped in shade.

Hosted by Andy Engelson of Citizens for a Community Center at MLK (CCC@MLK), area residents mingled with each other while filling their plates with grilled burgers, hotdogs, vegetarian patties, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans and brownies. All of it was free, courtesy of the community council and the CCC@MLK. Engelson felt the turn out was at least as large as last year's barbecue.

"I'm so happy how well it has turned out," Engelson during a brief break for a hot dog before turning his attention back to the mic stand and the next raffle. "I love this neighborhood, and this is a great event."

In addition to the inherent camaraderie of the barbecue's neighbor-to-neighbor networking, children and adults enjoyed the steel drum sounds of The Toucans and the funny, uplifting, child-focused acoustic guitar songs of area resident Doug Fleming. Several raffle drawings were held throughout the barbecue's 4-7 p.m. time frame with appearances by the crew of Seattle Fire Department's Engine 34 and a trio of amused chickens watching from their coop as children ran in an out of two wading pools and a sprinkler. Face painting and pinwheel making crafts were also provided for the little one's on the deck of the school's main building.

In addition to the infectious playfulness and sense of community spread by the children and the visiting adults, the barbecue also served to inform the neighborhood about the CCC@MLK's efforts to transform the decommissioned Martin Luther King Elementary School into a community center. Recently formed, the group handed out literature explaining their hopes for the school along with a survey designed to gauge what the neighborhood would like to see at the school if the city green lights the group's proposed community center transformation.

The survey was available online through the month of June, and may continue into July. Go online to take it at For more information, write to Engelson at

"We've had 120 responses so far, and more than 90 percent of them have been positive," Engelson said.

Erik Hansen may be reached via

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