The progressive dinner party that turned into a calling card for Tremont

If the neighborhood of Tremont were a person, it would make one heck of a dinner party host.


One month from today, the area will once again host its annual Tremont Trek on Saturday, June 15, from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Now 18 years running, the event features an exclusive whirlwind tour of six private homes, along with tastings provided by local restaurants at each stop.


Each year, around 225 tickets are sold—raising between $10,000-$20,000 that is funneled into local micro-grants—but founder Margy Judd says that the focus is more on elevating Tremont as a place to live, play, and work.


“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to showcase the housing stock, restaurants, and walkability of our neighborhood as opposed to any other neighborhood in the city of Cleveland,” shares Judd, who also runs Executive Arrangements.


Judd and her late husband Amo first cooked up the idea back in 2000, when they first moved to Tremont and “realized we didn’t know a single person in the neighborhood,” remembers Judd. “We decided to meet our neighbors by doing a progressive dinner party. [Our vision was] 100 people from the neighborhood getting to know each other and plugging into this front porch culture Tremont is known for.”


But the first year had a surprise in store—the event attracted more people from the suburbs than the city. “It was a complete role reversal from what we’d envisioned,” says Judd.


And over time, the Tremont Trek has served to lure many of them to the neighborhood permanently, according to Judd: “Anecdotally, I can think of at least six people who’ve told me the reason they bought or rehabbed a house in Tremont was because they came on a house tour 10 years ago.”


In getting the tour up and running, the Judds consulted with the planners of the longer-running “Evening in Ohio City” event, whom Judd says “basically gave us the playbook for how to create a house tour in an urban neighborhood.”


They also joined forces with Walter Wright of Tremont West Development Corporation, who helped them “align with TWDC so the [event] would have an anchor of a nonprofit where the money could flow in and out and give grants to neighborhood initiatives.”


On that note, the Trek has awarded almost $150,000 to date to organizations such as Art Renaissance Tremont, Tremont Arts & Cultural Festival, Near West Recreation, Tremont Gardeners, and many more. They’ve also awarded grants to help expand Tremont’s wayfinding signage, help repair the Lincoln Park Gazebo, and provide maps for Walkabout Tremont.


“The [grant recipients have ranged from]  helping attract butterflies and bees to a community garden on W. 14th to a much larger grant to do a natural playground in that space right next to the Inner Belt,” shares Judd. “We give grants to people or projects working to improve the quality of life for residents, visitors, and business owners in the Tremont neighborhood. “


In curating the featured homes, Judd says she and the committee get together every January to start making selections. They try to represent various styles—from contemporary modern to restored Victorians—and a wide price range from affordable to upscale (up to $750,000). In 18 years, they’ve only repeated three homes, one which is Tremont’s notorious “Painted Lady.”

They also try to rotate the participating restaurants as much as possible. This year’s line up includes TyFun, Dante, Fat Cats, Trio, Fahrenheit, and Parallax. Wine and beer from local vendors is also provided, and Forest City Brewery will host the pre-party.


Judd says the event has more than exceeded her expectations and initial plans for a simple progressive dinner party. “I hoped it would go for 10 years and open people’s eyes and continue the momentum into Tremont,” she shares. “When we moved in the fall of 2000, we were still a little unsure about whether this neighborhood would continue to improve or stagnate. We thought if we could show enough people what a cool neighborhood this was, it could help tip the scale.”


Mission accomplished.


To learn more about the event or purchase tickets, please click here.

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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