Block parties are a great way to get everyone outside to get to know your neighbors. They are straight forward to organize and don’t have to cost much. Read on for easy steps to plan and organize a block party!
One of the things I like most about our community is our neighbors. In the summer our kids ride bikes and play street hockey in the cul-de-sac, they run to each other’s houses and play, and the adults congregate and catch up on our lives. We occasionally have impromptu pot luck dinners and we share vegetables from our garden. We are grateful to have such wonderful neighbors. But it wasn’t always that way.
Our community is relatively new and a lot of us moved into our houses in the winter when everyone hibernates in Canada. In the first year, we hardly recognized each other’s’ faces much less knew each other’s names. There was “the guy we thought was married but we never actually saw his wife,”, “the guy who got stuck in the snow on our street twice in the same day,” and “the lady that had a new baby and never came outside.” You get the picture, we were strangers.
Break The Ice
One of the ways we initially began to know each other was through a block party. It was a great way to break the ice (pun intended…that’s a joke for my Canadian readers!) Check out these 6 easy steps to plan an organize a block party.
Step 1: Get Volunteers
In order to plan and organize a block party, you have to have someone in charge. One person could take it on or a small group of 4-5 could help organize it. It could be the same people every year or you could rotate it. Since block parties are often in the summer months people may be out of town, making a rotation necessary.
Step 2: Agree on the Date
The next most important thing to do when planning a block party is to finalize the date. You may want to plan your event in coordination with other community or regional events.
For example, our city established Neighbor Day in June 2014 in order to celebrate the support and generosity of neighbors that was demonstrated during a devastating flood we had in June 2013.
In the states, many neighborhoods host block parties and cookouts on National Night Out.
“National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live and work.”
National Night Out is held on the first Tuesday in August in most states (The state of Texas and select areas celebrate on the first Tuesday in October).
Step 3: Registration
If you plan your block party around a community event like the two listed above, be sure to register. Registration is typically free, but it can come with some perks like tips for planning or a free street permit if you plan on barricading your street.
Step 4: Organize Food for the Block Party
Next, determine your game plan for food and activities.
There are many options when it comes to food. You could do a pot-luck, a cookout, or even arrange for a food truck to come to the block party (depending on the number of people you anticipate attending).
You could tell everyone to bring something or you could organize it a little further by assigning food categories to different sections of the alphabet. For example
A – D – Appetizers
E – J – Mains
K – P – Sides / Salad
Q – U – Desserts
V – Z – Drinks, Plates, Utensils
The less planned approach is to have everyone bring whatever they like. The block party planning committee takes up a small donation for a few dollars per house to purchase things everyone will use like water, plates, utensils, trash bags, etc.
The route that takes the least amount of effort is to organize a food truck to come by for a couple of hours.
Step 5: Communicate with Neighbors
Now that you have a game plan for the date and food, you’ll want to communicate with your neighbors. We have a private Facebook page for our street. We use it to share safety information e.g. strange car seen at 2 a.m., needs like “can anyone babysit this weekend”, or opportunities like “my daughter is selling girl scout cookies…who wants them?!?” It’s also a great place to communicate about the Block Party.
If you’re planning on barricading off your street so that no traffic comes through, then you’ll need to file a permit with your city. This will likely require the signature of your neighbors. We have found it is more efficient to go to each house vs. asking people to stop by one house.
The good news is, you can accomplish several things by going house to house. You can get the signatures, deliver a flyer with all of the Block Party details, and collect any money that’s needed.
Items to include in a Block Party Flyer:
- Date and Time
- Food instructions
- Where to meet (e.g. Cul-de-sac, in front of house #224, etc.)
- Who to contact if you have questions?
Once you have all of the signatures, be sure to file your papers with the City or other organizations like the National Night Out Group.
Step 6: Brainstorm and Plan for Block Party Activities
Here are a few ideas you could run with.
- Giant Outdoor Games- We have a neighbor that always brings their life-size Jenga game made out of 2x4s. It’s a hit with everyone. Both kids and adults like it! I’ve also seen tic-tac-toe for the lawn or a Giant Connect 4.
- Games Kids Can Plan on the Street -Kids love to play games and you don’t have to do much to organize them. Just make sure you have the right equipment e.g. Basketball or Street Hockey. If you want to go above and beyond, you could organize a tournament throughout the day. These are fun, but definitely not required!
- Do a bike parade. Have the kids decorate their bikes and do a parade up and down the street.
- Bouncy Castles are always a hit, but sometimes people have concerns with the liability associated with them in case a kid gets hurt.
- Face Painting or Glitter Tattoos – This one can cost a little if you don’t know how to do them yourself, but they go over well with the kids!
- Fire Pit – If you live in a colder climate, a fire pit is great to sit by once the sun goes down
- Music – Portable blue-tooth speakers are great to create an upbeat atmosphere at your block party
If you don’t know your neighbors very well, block parties are a great way to get to know them in a comfortable setting. If you’re already friends with your neighbors, getting together for a block party is an easy way to spend the night out.
In six easy steps, you can plan and organize a block party. Make sure you have volunteers, secure a date, file any necessary paperwork, and organize the food and activities and you’ll be good to go! It’s time to rock your block party!
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