The block party is more than a nostalgic relic. It’s a social necessity.
“They help us connect and build our communities,” says Emily Lewis, neighborhood programs specialist in Henderson, Nev., who helps coordinate block parties.
There are the practical benefits as well, such as networking to find a plumber or a babysitter – and of course someone who can lend you a cup of sugar in a pinch.
Thinking of throwing your own block party?
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Check with your town to see if they offer guidance or resources. Requirements and local laws vary.
You’ll want to talk with your neighbors to get a sense of who’s interested in attending and who would like to help plan it. (The more help, the better.) The City of Henderson’s Neighborhood Services department suggests designating residents to coordinate publicity, food and refreshments, activities, permits, setup and take-down.
Once you gather your planning committee, decide on where and when you’ll have it. Joy Racine, citizen advisor for Scottsdale, Ariz., recommends you select an area that offers convenient access to guests – and one that can be blocked off without too much disruption to the neighborhood.
Decide on what type of food and drink you’ll have – and more importantly, who will pay for them. If you’re doing a potluck, write down what everyone will bring. If you’re catering, make sure to order in advance.
Get the word out at least one month ahead of the date, distributing reminders to residents via snail mail or email. Make sure you invite everyone in the neighborhood (no picking and choosing) and include all the necessary info in the invitation, including RSVP and contact information.
Gathering the appropriate permits is a must. Most areas have a permit for block parties and street closures. Make sure you comply with all rules and get the right barricades and signage for safety.
Many governments encourage block parties by offering resources, from planning assistance to free supply rentals.
Keeping partygoers entertained is a challenge. Short on community cash? Visits from government officials can be a fun way to meet those who serve your community. Scottsdale’s mayor will make the rounds, as will police and fire department staff with their service vehicles – a crowd favorite.
“Residents get to actually sit in the trucks and cars, look at the computer screens and operate the sirens,” explains Racine, adding that the adults are enthusiastic about the opportunity. “It’s a friendly opportunity for residents to meet city personnel.”
You could also tap into the nostalgia of block parties with some playground-style games such as capture the flag, hopscotch and tag. Kids love to help lead these activities, which takes the pressure off the adult coordinators.
After the party
Make sure to designate a cleanup crew before the event, so everyone knows what to expect.
If you want feedback on the event, Henderson recommends surveying the attendants, which will help make next year’s block party even better.