10 Tips for a Summer Block Party

Looking for a way to finally introduce yourself to the new neighbor down the street? Are your kids begging you to host an all-day water balloon war? Whether wanting to swap recipes or socialize within the neighborhood, block parties are time-honored traditions in neighborhoods all across the country.

The chance to meet new neighbors or catch up with those you haven’t seen since last fall can build bonds within a community and create a sense of hominess on the street. It can also mean you have to adapt your favorite cole slaw recipe to feed 40 ravenous neighbors!

Set a Theme
Experienced party consultant and Owner of Imagine it Kidz in Whitemarsh, Pa., Linda Amadio says, “Setting a theme gives direction to the event and aids in planning the party.” Determine whether you want to have a day or evening block party, or one that spans across both. Do you want to have families wear distinctive colors to make members easily identifiable or feature a beach flair? Your theme can set the tone of the party and be what the remainder of the planning centers around.

What Is Permitted?
Check with your local town government to learn if you need a permit or for regulations about blocking off access to your street. Many municipalities will provide barriers for the street that can be picked up the day before or of the party. Others may prohibit the use of a grill on public property, easements, etc., so it’s always best to ask first and avoid a potential snag or fine.

Location, Location, Location
“The best place to have a block party is at a house in the middle of the block. The party can really change depending if it is at one end of the block or the other,” says seasoned block party planner and attendee Kathy Thomas of Dallas, Texas. If the party location is perceived to be too far from their home, people might not attend or may feel they’re not comfortable at the opposite end of the street. It is also helpful to choose a house with a driveway in the front or one that has a circular drive for watching the grill and restocking ice.

Set Limits
“Let all party goers know the house rules concerning entering houses or feeding furry guests,” urges Amadio. It is also important for all guests to know the safety rules and plans for the area. Not tossing trash into a fire pit or grill or staying out of the yards of neighbors not attending the party ensures everyone enjoys the block bash. Set a time limit for the party to prevent the party from getting out of hand or from becoming a nuisance to neighbors trying to sleep around the festivities.

Delegate Duties
Avoid stress and assign party planning duties to the neighbors. Ask one person to make the flyer, others to bring folding chairs and one or two people to dedicate use of their grills. Most neighborhoods opt for each family to bring their own beverages and often ask every family to donate a set amount to offset the cost of the meat, prizes for the kiddies and entertainment.

Insuring Safety
The concern of accident liability has many steering clear of allowing the party grill or Moonwalk on their property. “We have everyone sign a waiver to protect homeowners and reduce potential neighborhood tension,” says veteran block partygoer Beth Schwebber of Newark, N.Y. It is also a good idea to inform everyone on the street of the details of the party. In the event they’re not going to be home or attending, they can take precautions to not park vehicles on the street or leave potentially hazardous items, such as baby pools or tools, in the yard.

Fun Activities
Bicycle-decorating contests, searching for candy hidden in a pile of straw and water balloon tosses are just a few activities that will keep younger party goers entertained. “You can never have too many activities waiting in the wings,” notes Amadio. Encourage the kids to bring their bikes, skateboards, scooters or roller blades, but don’t forget to also encourage the use of protective safety gear.

Lights and Sirens
Ask local police or fire department if they would stop by the party to conduct a mini hands-on seminar for the kids. The chance to honk the horns, hold a fire hose or talk over the loudspeaker will create fond memories, as well as give children a chance to brush up on safety tips.

Fun for Everyone
Kids aren’t the only ones who rely on games to break the ice. Plan a few activities geared at introducing those at one end of the block to their counterparts on the other end. Even silly games such as egg tosses start the party off with a festive bang. “We set up volleyball nets at a few different houses that are close to the food,” suggests Thomas, the mother of three.

Feeding the Masses
Ask guests to bring a favorite snack or side dish to share and ensure the party has plenty of tasty treats. Assigning categories such as salads, veggies and desserts will make sure you don’t have too many potato chips and not enough dip!