Rock the Block: How to Organize an Awesome Neighborhood Block Party
Games, food, fun, oh my! Follow these tips for a rockin’ block party
By: Jessi Minneci
Whether you can remember it or not, there WAS a time people actually knew all of their neighbors! Families would get together to barbeque, and the kids would bicycle on the cul-de-sac until dark. Unfortunately, times have more or less changed since the early 2000s.
Are you attempting (and so far failing) to meet the new neighbors on your block? Have your kids been begging you to host an epic egg-toss contest? Whether your goal is to swap family recipes with the local moms or set up a few potential playdates for your kids with the family down the street, bringing the neighborhood together for a block party is a great idea!
The block party offers a chance to bring together anywhere from 15 to 100 families (or more, we won’t set a cutoff!) and to catch up with those you haven't been able to get together with in a while. Not to mention, it can help create a homey feel throughout the whole neighborhood.
Start the tradition in your neighborhood and get that block party going! Here’s how:
Pick the hot spot
Before you can host a block party, you are going to need to set a concrete date and location. Choose a location that will accommodate a large number of people – particularly right on your block, but only if all of your neighbors are on board and if the town will allow you to shut down the street (for safety reasons). If not, you may want to look into moving the party to a more communal area, such as a local park that’s ideally within walking distance. Remember, you will have tables, chairs, grills, coolers, games, and more, so size and space are definitely factors.
You are also going to want to check the weather report. If you live in an area where it often rains later in the day, plan an afternoon get together. Depending on where you live, spring and fall are ideal months for outdoor block parties – but in other regions, summer is the best bet.
Once you figure out a date and a place, start planning ASAP. The further ahead your start planning, the more time you will give friends and neighbors to prepare and mark their calendars.
Make sure it’s legal
Going along with location, it’s more likely than not that your block party will be hosted on some type of public property. Check with your local city or town hall to learn if you need a permit or any other special certifications.
Many municipalities will provide street barriers that can be picked up the day before or of the party. Others may prohibit the use of a grill on public property and/or park grounds, so it's always best to ask beforehand to avoid any potential strife or fines.
And, once you know the laws of the land, it’s important that you spread the word to the families in your area. All potential block party guests should know the rules and regulations – both town mandated and general – such as making it clear not to toss trash into the barbeque or staying out of the yards of neighbors not attending the party.
Think up a theme
Setting a theme for your neighborhood get together gives the event direction and aids in planning the party. Maybe you’ll want to have each family wear a distinctive color to make members easily identifiable and to set each apart when it comes to neighbor vs. neighbor competitions (remember, the epic egg-toss). Perhaps you’ll want to decorate with leis, flowery umbrellas, and host a limbo contest with a Hawaiian theme!
A theme will help set the tone of the party, and then the remainder of the planning will branch off of that.
Flex your delegation muscle
Want to avoid stress? We feel you! Don’t hesitate to assign some of the party planning duties to the neighbors:
- Ask one person to make an invitation flyer
- Ask the kids if they’d like to stuff invitation flyers into neighbors’ mailboxes
- Ask others to bring yard chairs and folding tables
- Designate someone to manage the decorations
- Ensure that a few people won’t mind donating some of their backyard games (like corn hole)
You may want to consider asking each family to bring their own beverages and/or ask every family to donate a set amount to offset the cost of the food, entertainment/activities, and prizes for the kiddies and entertainment.
Give them the grub
You can’t host a block party without providing some grub! Luckily, you have a few options here:
- You can host a potluck block party. Ask guests to bring a favorite snack or side dish to share and ensure the party has a wealth of tasty treats. When neighbors RSVP, ask them if they’d like to prepare and share a dish. As the organizer, keep a list of what people are bringing to make sure you don't end up with eight pasta salads and no cookies.
- Take the pressure off of each family (and off of yourself!) by getting the block party catered! After all, you’ve put so much time and effort into the planning of the shindig, you don’t want to have to watch everyone else have fun all day from behind the grill or buffet table. By delegating the food necessities to pros like us, you can ensure that you’ll sit back, relax, participate in the hula-hoop contest, and enjoy every bit of the block party just as much as everyone else! Opt to order a mix of hot and cold foods (such as salads, a sandwich platter, barbeque meats, and grill essentials) for the block party, and explain to your caterer any special needs or dietary restrictions. Then, let the pros take over and man the grill!
Serve up some fun
You can never go wrong with having some activities up your sleeve and the more activities the merrier! Encourage the kids to bring their bikes, skateboards, scooters or roller blades. Plan out an egg toss, water balloon fight, even enlist a piñata! The possibilities are endless when it comes to fun, and the entertainment at a block party doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg!
Remember, too, kids aren't the only ones who should be having a blast. Plan a few adult-geared activities geared at breaking the ice between neighbors from opposite ends of the block. Set up a volleyball net and serve up some fun.
Keep these key factors in mind when planning your block party and everything will unravel without a hitch! In fact, you may erven want to get a neighborhood committee together after the fact to discuss what went wrong, what went well, and what can be improved. Keep a record of names, contact information, civic departments, donations, costs, etc. Before you know it, you may have started a community tradition – and can begin planning for next year!
Lastly, be sure to acknowledge individuals and groups who donated their time, goods, and expertise to make the event a success.