Parties & Entertaining

How to throw a block party

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A block party
When you start organizing a block party, you'll want to check several months in advance about what the municipal rules are that you'll have to follow
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Throwing a block party is something that takes some planning and teamwork

Having a block party can be a fun occasion for everyone in your neighborhood. Here are some suggestions on how to give a block party that will make yours a great success. Working together to decide what kind of party you want to give and planning out how to make it happen gives you a chance to enjoy and sometimes get to know the families who live on your block. 


The Beginning Stages


As with so many things in life events move forward when someone is in charge. For the moment we'll say that person is you. If you follow the schedule below and find that volunteers are not forthcoming, a block party is not for your block—at least, not this year.


In the spring gather together all the neighbors you know who might enjoy being part of the effort. Ask one of them to work especially closely with you and serve as a fall-back partner in case everyone in your house catches a virus that week.


Set the Date


Set a date at least two months ahead. Check what municipal rules you may have to follow in order to have the party. In some municipalities all you need is permission; in others you may need to pay a small fee for a permit. In some municipalities police need to be notified and may provide you with sawhorses or other equipment to block off the street during the time of the party. In some communities you can include beer and wine in your menu; others may restrict beverages.


When you set the date, remember that the weather is a serious factor. You need to make a plan that takes weather into account. Is the party off if it's raining? Do you want to plan a rain date? Can parts of the party be moved into garages, covered patios or homes if the weather suddenly changes? There is no absolute way to settle this; your committee will need to decide.


What Type of Party Will You Throw?


Decide what your party will look like. Is it lunch or dinner? Is it a sit-down or sit-on-the-curb meal? If you are having a meal rather than just snacks, do your neighbors have the tables and chairs you need or do you need to rent them? Do you want to rent other things, like an inflatable jumper for children, a musician or other entertainer or a snow-cone machine? Would you like to arrange for the local ice-cream truck to come? Are you cooking out, ordering in, or doing potluck? How long will the party last? Who will pass on information and get feedback from neighbors not attending the meeting?


Safety Concerns


Your first meeting about how to throw a block party should also address safety concerns. How do you block the street? Bikes or no bikes? Do you need an area sectioned blocked off for riding toys and ball games? Will parents or teens take turns watching small children? May neighbors bring guests? Do you want to be home by dark? If not, how will you light the party area?


Second Meeting


You need another meeting a month later and a month before the party. At this meeting you share feedback from neighbors not at the meeting. Perhaps none of them want to cook. Is there a way they can contribute financially and someone can shop for their donations? Perhaps the non-cookers need to provide cold drinks, bread, bakery desserts and ice. One neighborhood may choose to cook out, charging a small fee for chicken and hotdogs and ask neighbors to bring salads and desserts. Another may opt for everything but cold drinks from a local deli—that's probably why six-foot hero sandwiches were invented. 


At this meeting you establish how food will be acquired or produced and whether you need to charge a family fee to cover any costs. You will settle play areas, tables and chairs and any other activities that are needed for neighbors to enjoy the party. You will need to figure out who is willing to coordinate food donations or shop for everyone. At this point the most important concern about how to throw a block party is how to clean up afterward. Having a committee member who is in charge of trash cans and garbage bags and follows up on taking the party down is very important to a successful experience. 


After the Party


You should have one more meeting after your party. Gather committee members together once more to evaluate what went well and what needs fine tuning or change. Take a positive attitude toward complaints. It's only when people have a good time that they want it to be better. You can also decide whether a block party is something you want to do every year.


While this schedule lists a lot of concerns to be addressed before having the party, they will likely be settled quickly if neighbors are anxious to learn how to give a block party. Sharing the work with as many neighbors as possible both lightens the load and strengthens everyone's commitment to a successful event. You may be surprised at your neighbors' enthusiasm, creativity and willingness to work.

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