Studio 5 Party & Ideas Contributor Alisa Bangerter breaks down the block basics.
When planning a block party consider these important three components:
Theme or Type of Party
• Most block parties do not need a specific theme and can just be as simple as a neighborhood barbecue or picnic.
• Consider what your neighborhood/block consists of. Is it a specific block, several blocks, an apartment complex, etc.? Also consider ages and interests of those who live on your block in determining what type of party you will have.
• Depending on where you live or what your neighborhood/block consists of, you might wish to hold your block party at a park, a back yard, a parking lot, a clubhouse or at the end of an actual street. This might help determine what type of party you will have.
• If you have your block party around a holiday (4th of July, Pioneer Day, Labor Day, etc.) use this as your theme.
• A theme can be simple such as using a specific color as part of the table coverings, paper products, etc.
• If you wish to have a specific theme for your block party consider a neighborhood Olympics or carnival type theme. These themes work well and can involve many people easily.
• Hold a “Welcome” block party to welcome a new family to the neighborhood.
• A nice type of block party might be a service party for a neighbor in need (yard care, painting, etc.) or collecting food for a food pantry etc.
• Make sure to give everyone an invitation several weeks before the party and then a reminder on their door the day before the party. A fun invitation might be to attach party information to an actual block of wood inviting everyone to a “block” party. Another fun idea would be to attach the invite to a photo of the neighborhood or the actual street sign of the block. Be creative with invites to catch attention and get everyone excited. Remember it can be simple…a paper invitation tied to doorknob with a big ribbon can be just as fun as an elaborate invite.
• Decide whether you will have a potluck type meal or have the party catered and divide the cost up. If you decide on a potluck type meal, decide if specific food assignments will need to be made.
• Make sure to assign someone to bring paper products, tables, grills, table coverings, garbage cans/liners, etc. Each family can be asked to bring their own chairs to sit on.
• Decide how to serve beverages. Will you have drink jars, bottled drinks or drinks in cans? Make sure coolers or tubs of ice are provided for the drinks to stay cool.
• A creative dessert is always fun and memorable. Consider homemade ice cream, parfaits, shaved ice, cotton candy, soft serve ice cream, dipped cones, popcorn, etc. Many machines (such as cotton candy, popcorn and soft serve ice cream) can be rented or check with neighbors to see what resources/products they have access to.
• Have a pie making contest, ice cream making contest or chili cook-off or other food related contest as part of the block party.
• Ask neighbors to bring copies of recipes for dishes they bring to the party. This is a fun way to share.
• It might be fun to have a specific theme as far as type of food, for example instead of grilling burgers and hot dogs consider having a big taco bar.
• Block parties are a time to socialize with neighbors so don’t over plan activities. Some simple planned activities to keep children and teens busy are a good idea.
• Coordinate activities to go along with the theme if you have one.
• Utilize resources neighbors have access to such as creative outdoor games or other items. Lawn games such as Frisbee golf, horseshoes, croquet, bocce, etc. are good to have available.
• If your party will be after dark, show an outdoor movie – previously tape people in the neighborhood throughout the year or answering fun questions and show a personalized movie. This could be a lot of fun.
• Hold a talent show.
• Pass out questionnaires about neighbors and the neighborhood and give a prize to who knows the most neighborhood trivia.
• Have a birthday party/cake for your neighborhood. This would work well if the neighborhood is only a few years old or is a newer subdivision and the actual age of the neighborhood is known.
• Create neighborhood t-shirts or a banner everyone can sign.
• Use the facilities at where your block party is. For example utilize volleyball nets, swimming pools, baseball fields, basketball courts, playground equipment etc. Add extra fun to these games buy changing rules or adding a twist to the way the game is normally played.
• Have a prize drawing, Ask neighbors to donate an item or service or get donations from community businesses.
• Play water games.
• Have teens in the neighborhood be in charge of a craft station for the children to make simple crafts, balloon animals, etc. Teens are great resources to help in planning games and activities.
• Have a coloring contest for the children.
• Have a bubble station with lots of different bubble making items. Send home each child with a bottle of bubbles.
• Ask each family to present a short skit.
• Have a fish pond, scavenger hunt or a treasure hunt.
• Rent an inflatable slide
Other Helpful Tips:
• Form a neighborhood committee (block parties are a great time to nominate a committee for the next year’s party) to plan and organize the block party. Have a contact person. You could also rotate each family to be the “host” and to be in charge for the year.
• You may wish to hold your block party the same date or same weekend each year so families can plan for it.
• It is often against the law to completely block off streets so check with your city for specific ordinances and rules. Also some cities might provide barricades if they allow some blockage.
• Consider sound systems, toilet facilities, clean up committees, etc. in your planning.