I’ve never been to a bad block party. The best seem to be small where with plenty of opportunities to get to know your neighbors and you can keep track of the kids. And smaller is easier to pull off. For us a block party is twelve of so families.
This is written from my experience, which is smaller block parties, a bunch of friends getting together.
Inviting your neighbors
Ascertain the interest. Call several of the neighbor and ask them what they think and when they would like it. Listen to their suggestions, The weekend before school starts may not be a good time.
Make a flyer. Put the details in it including what you want them to bring and what you’ll provide. Suggest that they stick it on their refrigerator so they won’t forget. If it’s okay for them to bring their own BBQ grill and burgers, tell them.
Follow up with a phone call. The attendance will be much better and you need to know how many people to plan for.
Planning the food
All you really need to make your party successful is plenty of good food and good neighbors. Figure out what you’re going to provide and what you want them to bring.
A potluck works fine where everyone brings a dish but you’ll need a coordinator so you don’t end up with 12 bags of potato chips.
It’s also okay to ask people to bring their own meals, not just one dish. If you do that, have a community BBQ station with several grills.
Decide if you’re going to ask for contributions to offset your costs and then look at your family budget. Maybe you provide the paperware, a grilling station, and the root beer or other beverage.
Making carbonated beverages with dry ice is easy and a nice touch that your neighbors will appreciate. See how to make carbonated beverages with dry ice here. Print out the instructions; some of your neighbors would love a copy.
Are you going to provide the dessert? If so, make it simple but different. Cookies and punch work just fine. Have several kinds of cookies like Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake, Chocolate Sugarsnaps, or Caramel Apple. Include some chocolate cookies. Different is memorable. Nothing against Oreos but they won’t make the party.
Most things that are wet from salads to meat are potentially hazardous and shouldn’t be out of the cold more than a couple hours. Sweets like sauces and pies are the exception if they have enough sugar. That means that unless folks are going to eat and run, they need to bring a cooler stocked with ice.
Set the example by putting your perishables away and suggest to others they do the same. In your handout, suggest that they bring a cooler with ice for their leftovers.
In our neighborhood, everyone knows everyone so activities may be unnecessary. If folks don’t know each other, plan a few ice breakers and maybe something for the kids to do.
If someone new has moved into the neighborhood, in my book, that alone is an excellent reason to have a block party. Develop a strategy to make them feel welcome. Make sure others in the group are aware of their new neighbors and are armed with some basic information like where they came from and what they do.
Consider the new kids. Chances are the kids have long since made friends with the newcomers but if not, make it happen.
- Consider music. If you do play music, don’t make it loud and don’t’ get away from mainstream. Keep it background music. Remember some of your neighbors may be hard of hearing. Others won’t appreciate that country rock—as hard as that may be to believe.
- Decorations. Especially if you are doing it around a holiday, that’s a fun addition to your party.
- For bigger parties, check on local ordinances and permits.
- Have a plan to keep the kids safe from any neighborhood hazards—ditches, traffic, or strangers.
- Have some first aid supplies on hand for a skinned knee or cut finger.