Photo courtesy of jagwired.
Why not host a block party with your neighbors this year? Block parties are an easy and fun way to build a sense of community and meet new people. With these simple block party ideas, you and your neighbors can host a fabulous block party without being overwhelmed by a lot of work!
Recruit your neighbors!
First things first: Don't do it alone. You will need the help of your neighbors to pull off a successful block party, so quell the urge to handle it all by yourself. Think about the neighbors you know well and ask them to pitch in. You'll need someone who knows everyone in the area, someone great at dividing up tasks, another person to plan activities, and someone to look into logistics (space, tables, chairs).
Obey local laws
Another item at the top of your list should be to check in with city hall about any permits you might need. Find out if there are regulations regarding large groups of people assembling or noise ordinances. You might even be able to block off the street with some pre-planning.
Once you and your core group of workers have established a date for the block party, it's time to get the whole neighborhood involved. This is where your highly social neighbor comes into play. Have him or her send emails, go door to door, or leave fliers in mailboxes. Encourage neighbors to RSVP so you know who will be attending (and of course, on the day of the party, welcome everyone, RSVP or not!).
Share the food prep
The cheapest and easiest way to host a block party is to make it a potluck. Have one of the block party workers handle the task of assigning a food to each neighbor who RSVPs. Think appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, desserts, fruit, chips, dips, beverages, napkins, plates, utensils, and cups. This will eliminate the possibility of having more than enough of one type of dish and not enough of another. A week or so before the block party, have the worker in charge of food contact each family to offer a reminder about assigned dishes.
One quick note: Be flexible! You may ask one neighbor to bring a main dish, but she may prefer to make her famous lemon meringue pie. You want everyone to have a good time, so go with the flow.
Another option is to have each family bring their own meal. Have one or two houses willing to offer up their grills for families who want to BBQ. Set up a communal eating area in driveways so that neighbors can break bread together.
Set a good mood with music
Music always sets the mood at any party, and you should try to have some at your block party. The trick is to play music that everyone will like, from the senior citizens to kids. Party supply stores often sell CDs of party music. You can purchase a few of those or just take a peek at them to get ideas for your own playlist. And keep it family friendly!
If it's possible, set up music in different areas. Have some playing where people are eating (Not too loud, though!), where people are prepping food, and where people are relaxing together. Just make sure the music areas don’t compete with one another.
Plan block party games and activities
It may seem like it's up to the guests to make the block party a hit, but you'll need to help that along with a few activities. After all, you don't want your neighbors standing around or eating silently!
Have one of the block party workers come up with a list of a few ice breaker activities to ensure that everyone gets to know one another. You shouldn't limit activities to kick off the festivities, either. Have a few planned for throughout the party. Don't forget about the kids! Be sure to have plenty of activities available for kids, like sidewalk chalk, scavenger hunts, and games.
Go big or small with decorations
What's a party without some decorations? Put a neighbor in charge of decorating the designated area of the block party. Balloons, streamers, and colorful tablecloths will help create a festive atmosphere. Maybe you have a neighbor with a lovely garden who will even be willing to supply some fresh flowers for tables!
How to handle uninterested neighbors
It's possible that one or two of your neighbors may not be quite as interested in the block party as you are. That's OK! Be sure to keep those who aren't attending in the loop anyway by letting them know what time the party will be going on so they are aware of when the crowd is gathered and how long the noise will last. Try not to stage any activities in front of houses with families not attending unless you absolutely have to. And if by chance your neighbors are lured out by the sound of fun, be sure to welcome them to the party!
Block party safety
Keep kids (and adults) safe by having a first-aid table set up. Fill it with bandaids, wound cleaner, and sunscreen. Stage any area involving kids away from traffic. Gentle reminders to parents to keep an eye on their kids is also a great idea.
One final tip
The day of the block party, remember this above all else: Have fun! Things are bound to not go exactly as planned, but your neighbors will remember your reaction to those missteps far more than anything else. Go with the flow and shake things off! You'll be so grateful you did.