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Build Community, Plan a Block Party!

Whether you’ve recently moved to the neighborhood or have lived there for years, organizing a block party is a great way to get to know your neighbors. As you work with a team to plan it, you’ll make new friends and get to know the people living around you better. The block party itself will help create a sense of community.

Are you ready to organize a block party for your neighborhood? Planning a great block party isn’t difficult, but you will need several months to decide on its scope, obtain any required permits and deal with other logistics. These steps will walk you through the process of throwing a neighborhood block party.

Assemble your neighborhood block party team

No matter how great you are at planning your kids’ birthday parties or family gatherings, you can’t organize a block party on your own. You’ll need a team of helpers. Depending on the size of your block party, you will need at least six volunteers:

  • one to apply for the permit (if necessary)

  • one to promote the party

  • one to organize the potluck

  • two to set up and clean up

You can always use more volunteers. In addition to having two people promoting the block party or organizing the potluck, you can have several people in charge of collecting signatures if you need them to get the permit. Other possibilities include having someone in charge of organizing kids’ activities, another in charge of getting food or drinkgs and another in charge of entertainment.

If you already know some of your neighbors, start by asking them if they’d like to help. Otherwise, post signs in the neighborhood asking for volunteers or, better yet, go door-to-door. You’ll likely generate more interest that way since people can ask you questions and see your enthusiasm.

Hold an initial planning session for your neighborhood block party

Once you have your team, schedule a meeting to discuss the block party’s logistics and divide the workload. Kick the meeting off by asking for ideas. Should there be a theme such as the 4th of July? What area will the party cover? Just your street or all the homes in your block? Will you rent bouncy houses or serve alcohol? It may take a few meetings to iron out all the details, but the more you can address upfront, the better.

You’ll also need to decide on a budget for your block party and decide whether you’ll ask for donations, charge an admission fee or foot the bill yourself. Many block parties ask for donations from local businesses who can advertise at the party or from residents who probably won’t mind paying a nominal fee like $25 for a day of family fun. Others rely on funds from purchased food or tickets for activities. Decide as a group what works best for your neighborhood.

Before you end the meeting, take the time to determine who will handle which tasks. At the very least, you’ll want to appoint someone to handle the permitting process and, assuming you’ve picked a date (plus a rain date), another person to work on the save-the-date flyers to post around the neighborhood.

Get party permits for your neighborhood block party

Depending on where you live and the scope of your block party, you may need a permit, especially if you want to close off a street. Start by contacting your city or town’s main office to ask about permits, special event insurance requirements and noise ordinances.

In addition to getting a general permit for your event, you may need a permit for carnival rides or to charge admission. Often, you’ll be required to have the police department sign off the event as well. If that weren’t enough, you might need to get special event insurance or submit a plan to dispose of the trash generated.

Check to see if a block party permit entitles you to a complimentary a fire truck visit.

Ask for RSVPs

Post save-the-date flyers throughout the neighborhood. The flyers should be colorful enough to catch the eye and include the date of the party, details like cost (if there is one) and contact information for questions. You’ll also want to have a date for people to RSVP. This will give you a headcount and get people to commit to attending.

In addition to posting the flyers, hand-deliver them. (Handing out the invites in person is a good way to recruit additional volunteers to help at the party.) Whatever method you use to invite people, make sure to invite everyone. Under no circumstances leave anyone out.

Another consideration is whether to allow guests. Generally, block parties allow neighbors to invite guests, but it’s up to you. If you decide to allow residents to bring guests, your team may want to limit the number of guests or require the guests are included in the RSVP count.

Make the party fun

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to host a great block party. Although you could pay out of pocket to serve hamburgers, hot dogs, and chips, organizing a potluck is common. (Have everyone attending specify what they’re bringing ahead of time so you don’t end up with 30 bags of chips.)

For drinks, offer free water and pop (if you have the budget for it). You can maybe even have a keg for adults. While you’ll have to pay for it upfront, kegs usually pay for themselves. Just ask beer drinkers to donate a few dollars every time they partake.

Activities don’t have to cost a lot either. Reach out to the local fire and police department to see if they can bring a vehicle to your block party. Or, entertain the kids with games like water balloon tosses or sidewalk chalks.

If you have a larger budget or want to charge admission, you have the option to bring in carnival rides or a dunk tank. Some block parties even hire live music, magicians or clowns. You can also hold contests, like a best costume game for a Halloween-themed block party, and offer prizes.

Block party set up and clean up

In large communities, police will generally drop off signage and barricades to close the street a day or two before the party. Around noon, begin blocking off the street. Ask neighbors who may have forgotten to move their cars earlier to do so now. Walk the party area and remove any tripping hazards or dangerous items. Then, set up tables for food and activities. Clear space for entertainment and games, and put out trash cans.

After the party, remove traffic barriers and take down the tables. Put away chairs, grills, coolers, and other items used during the party. Finally, pick up the trash. Smaller block parties may divide the trash bags between their garbage cans for disposal. However, larger block parties will need a plan to eliminate the massive amounts of garbage generated.

Assuming everyone had a great time, start planning your next block party early. Your city may limit you on the number of block parties you can have per year but take the opportunity to host them frequently. The sense of community that block parties generate will make your neighborhood highly desirable.

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