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Chomp the Block brings smiles to Gainesville despite the early rain

Jamie Davis Band performs for Chomp the Block. (Melanie Peña/WUFT News)
Jamie Davis Band performs for Chomp the Block. (Melanie Peña/WUFT News)

Under a splintering cloudy Friday sky on the verge of rain, hundreds of Gainesville residents and Gator fans celebrated this year’s first Chomp the Block – a block party dedicated to the Florida Gators.

The event is an official Gators celebration, occurring throughout the football season on nights before home games. While the event was intended to run from 6 to 10 p.m., a rainy drizzle at around 8 p.m. halted the celebration.

Notes of live country and bluegrass music from the Jamie Davis Band mingled in the air at Celebration Pointe. The streets were lined with tents and food trucks as hundreds shuffled through.

“We're just really big Gator fans,” Jessica Schmitt said.

Schmitt attended the event with her daughters, mother, mother-in-law, father-in-law and husband. The 31-year-old is an administrative assistant at Abiding Savior Lutheran Preschool.

“We like to get out and do things together as a family. It's been really fun,” she said.

Upon the family’s arrival, their four-year-old daughter Jenna secured a butterfly balloon animal and a couple of trips down the inflatable slide. Her next treat would be a fluffy snow cone.

Schmitt also considered entering some of the giveaways at the event.

Prior to the rain, a winner was announced for a giveaway that included two 2024 Gator football season tickets and a parking pass.

A second large giveaway that featured prizes from Celebration Pointe, Kilwins, Dave & Buster's and more stores was planned, but it was canceled due to the rain. The prizes were saved to be given away at the next Chomp the Block giveaway.

For 44-year-old Scott Setzer, the party was a great way to show support for his friend Jamie, who was in the band. His wife and two dogs, a pug and a great dane mix, accompanied him.

The pug, Lenny, wore a blue Gators jersey and spun in tight circles while children ran over to pet him.

The event offered Setzer a chance for his dogs to socialize and an opportunity for him to drink, he said.

He was born and raised in Gainesville and has been attending Chomp the Block since it started. Setzer believes the event has only gotten “bigger and better.”

This year’s Chomp the Block marks the most vendors it’s had since the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Celebration Pointe manager of marketing Angela Chan.

After months of planning and coordinating with vendors, Chan was pleased to see kids smiling on bounce houses and parents relaxing with their food at the restaurants and food trucks.

“Like her right there, for instance,” she said, pointing to a little girl with a bright purple jump rope. “She's having a great time, and that's just the thing that really makes it worthwhile for me.”

For Alisha Berry, the event is “something to do to get out of the house” and a way to let her four-year-old daughter, Kamry, “burn some energy.”

Berry, 32, is a neonatal respiratory therapist in Newberry, Florida.

She’s attended the event about five times, and every time Berry and her daughter visit, Kamry gets her face painted as a sparkly unicorn.

Face paint is Kamry’s favorite part of the event, Berry said.

While there were many Gator-fitted pets in attendance, little Feder was celebrating his birthday at Chomp the Block, sporting a blue Gators jersey and little cowboy hat. Feder, a one-year-old dachshund, is also a registered emotional support animal for his owner, 23-year-old Jordyn Zyngier.

“I think he's having a great birthday,” Zyngier said. “Three hundred kiddos petting him and everyone else asking to take pictures.”

Zyngier works at UF Health as the pediatric trauma injury prevention and outreach coordinator. She spent her time at the event promoting pedestrian and bike safety to children.

“We had a really nice pedestrian safety game setup. It's all about learning and matching roadway science, and then they get to spin a wheel and get a surprise.”


Although this Chomp the Block was cut short by the weather, there will be two more parties before the end of the football season. The next Chomp the Block celebrations will be Nov. 3 and Nov. 24.

Melanie is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing