Block parties

10 Reasons To Have a Block Party

  1. To have fun – no excuse or reason to celebrate!
  2. To meet your neighbors.
  3. To increase the sense of belonging in your neighborhood.
  4. To organize a city-sponsored group such as Neighborhood Watch.
  5. To make connections within the community. When you know people, you can exchange skills or resources and perhaps organize a book club, baby-sitting co-op, share walking to school duties, or find new friends for your children.
  6. To plan a campaign for traffic slowdown, get better lighting, or address other interests.
  7. To “use” the street for one day, for example to roller blade, set up a kids jump house or to practice bike safety skills.
  8. To meet some of the old-time residents in the neighborhood and learn about its history.
  9. To have a neighborhood clean-up day, play some good music and barbecue once all the work is done.
  10. To start a tradition of getting together at least once a year.

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How to start organizing

  • Gather a few neighbors and divide up the tasks. A block party is too big a production for even the most highly-skilled organizer to accomplish alone. If you don’t already know you neighbors, reach out to them by organizing an introductory meeting and planning session.
  • Decide on a possible theme, activities, etc. Decide what to do about food.
  • Start knocking on doors to find out if there is enough interest and, if so, which day would be the best for the most people
  • Pick a date and time (mid-afternoon to evening works best). Respect neighborhood quietness after 9:00pm. Think of an alternate plan in case of poor weather.
  • Go door to door. Hand out invitations. If you plan to close off the street, you’ll probably need to complete Block Party application form.
  • Recruit volunteers to help with the planning.
  • Decide if this will be a block party restricted to those on the street/block or will people be able to invite friends/relatives
  • Post signs the day before reminding everyone to remove cars and that the street will be closed.

Ideas

  • Invite a city council member, school principal, or city staff member.
  • Call the Police Department, Fire Department, Environmental Services or other city departments to obtain literature, give-aways, or to request a presentation.
  • Make a record of everyone who attends and everyone you contacted; after all, the idea of a block party is to connect neighbors.
  • Identify special talents your neighbors might have – you may be living next to a magician, singer, dancer, artist, radio host or prize winning cook.
  • Plan lots of activities for children.
  • Food: if you’re looking for the least fuss, work, and cleanup, the hot dog is for you. The standard charcoal grill is a cheap, easy, portable way to go. Someone on your block probably owns one if you don’t.
  • Lots of block parties have great luck getting food donated from local grocery stores or supermarkets.
  • Have an environmentally friendly party. Ask everyone to bring their own reusable plates, cups and cutlery to limit paper garbage and litter.
  • Include activities that encourage people to meet each other. Use nametags and include children by asking them to create the tags.
  • Make sure that people with disabilities can participate in the activities and include their attendants (those with seeing eye dogs or in wheelchairs).
  • Institute a bathroom policy “Everyone to use their own” so that home security is maintained.
  • Trash: have at least one trash can at every table/location where food is being served. It’s also a good idea to have several elsewhere on the block.
  • Inspire clean up after every party by rewarding children with a prize for packing up garbage.
  • Have a block/street clean up as part of the party. Also, neighbors may want to contribute towards the cost of a truckload to the dump and use this to clean out gardens, garbage or alleys.
  • Distribute an evaluation form to participants (to get a good response, number the forms and have door prizes for returned entries).

Getting to know your neighbors

  • Identify any special people that lived in your area such as the longest resident, politician, artist, eccentric, hero, etc. Have partygoers guess who, what, where through charades and other games.
  • Have everyone bring his or her favorite family dish.
  • Use a map to indicate where everyone originally came from.

Family-friendly activities

  • Water balloon or egg toss
  • Hide and seek
  • Face painting
  • Organize a kids talent show or parade
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Pictionary or charades
  • Musical chairs
  • Invite a clown, balloon artist or magician
  • Rent a popcorn or snow cone machine

Neighborhood action

  • Discuss what issues/concerns people may have (keep this to a predetermined time: remember, a block party should be fun).
  • Establish teams to explore how to resolve the concerns.
  • Have a clean-up time.
  • Build a bench, plant a garden, and paint street numbers, etc. as part of the block party activities.

Typical restrictions

  • Alcohol is only permitted on private property, not on city streets or in parks.
  • Residents should observe security precautions, for example lock back doors to houses and keep equipment in sight.
  • Food cannot be sold on city streets unless the proper permits have been obtained. Give the food away (and there’s nothing to stop you from putting a “suggested donation” sign on the table).
  • Loud amplification of music is prohibited.
  • If you set up tables and chairs on the street, leave room for emergency vehicles.

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