10 Tips for Throwing An Outstanding Block Party
Whether we live in an apartment, house, duplex, or ADU, we all share our space with amazing people that we call our neighbors. But many of us don’t know our neighbors beyond their names and even fewer of us engage with each other beyond exchanging daily pleasantries like saying hello when we pass by on the sidewalk. Want to take neighboring to the next level? Get your entire apartment building, street, or full neighborhood together for a block party!
Hosting a summer block party is a great way to meet new neighbors, build bonds within the community, and enjoy the nice weather. Whether this is the first get-together for your neighborhood or you’re a seasoned party planner, try incorporating some of the tips below to make your party a hit.
1. Define and Fill the Space
Outdoor parties can be the hardest to design. Without walls to define the space, it can often feel like there is no there there. By adding some boundaries to your space, you can create the sense that it is a destination and a place to be. We also recommend putting everything fairly close together, rather than spreading out. This way, your event appears more bustling.
One cheap and easy way to create a purposeful and festive space is to hang garland or bunting. Another option is to use signs and sidewalk chalk.
Nothing saps the energy out of a party like too much sun. Try to select a location for your block party that has some natural shade available. If there isn’t enough shade, you can create some by using canopies or tieing fabric shade sails between trees.
3. Encourage Mingling with Seating
Another important consideration when setting up your block party is seating. You can encourage neighbors to get to know one another by limiting seating that allows people to sit alone and instead use a few large communal tables or clusters or chairs. Don’t feel you have to stick with traditional outdoor furniture either. Consider bringing the living room outside by arranging sofas and chairs.
4. Outreach, Outreach, and Outreach
Once you’ve got the major details of your block party planned — date, time, location — it’s time to invite your neighbors. You can increase the chances of your neighbors showing up by creating eye-catching invitations. Take a look at some of the inspiring examples we’ve rounded up here, which include flyers, door hangers, and postcards. Designing and printing invitations doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. You can use a template, draw it by hand and then photo copy, and print with black ink on colored paper.
Once you have them printed, enlist the help of a neighbor or two and hand deliver them door to door. If you want to go the extra mile, knock on doors and personally invite each neighbor, instead of just placing the invitation on their porch or taping it to the door. Inviting neighbors face-to-face is also a great opportunity to ask for help (see below, “Delegating to Increase Attendance”).
On the day before or the day of the event, use sidewalk chalk to write reminders.
5. Delegate to Increase Attendance
You might be able to plan an amazing event all by yourself, but you are a lot more likely to get a good turnout if you ask your neighbors to help with specific tasks. By asking your neighbors to help deliver invitations, play music at the event, bring chairs, make decorations, or dedicate use of their grill, not only are you guaranteeing that they will attend, since they now have skin in the game, but also the neighbors they are connected with are more likely to show up.
So capitalize on your neighbor’s skills and interests and tap into their neighborly networks by asking for help. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just knock on your neighbors’ doors and tell them that a bunch of neighbors are coming together to throw a block party on such-and-such date and they are invited. Then simply let them know what areas you still need help with (ex: lawn games, music, chairs, etc.) and ask them if they’d be willing to help. Also, be sure to get their phone number or email address so you can easily follow-up.
6. Include Music
Consider incorporating music into your event to help keep things feeling festive. Maybe someone in the neighborhood is part of a good band or knows one that would like to play at the event. If you can’t manage live music, then definitely find a few speakers to play music through.
7. Activities and Competition
Offering a few activities that require small or large groups makes it easier for neighbors to break the ice and get to know each other. Lawn games like cornhole, ladder ball and bocce ball are always a great option. You could also include some competition by setting up a volleyball net, having a huge game of tug or war, or having a watermelon eating contest. For a unique spin, have a marshmallow golf competition. Simply put down a small square of astroturf or carpet, place a big marshmallow on it, and see who can hit it the farthest with a golf club.
8. Feeding the Masses
A party isn’t a party without food and drinks. There is a few ways you can go about organizing food. One option is to have a potluck and assign neighbors categories such as grillable items, side dishes, desserts, and drinks. Or if you want to skip the grill, you can host a dessert party and ask everyone to bring summery treats to share. Be sure to stay mindful of food allergies. Leave a stack of blank index cards along with sharpies along the food table and ask neighbors to identify the ingredients in the dish and also write their name on the card. That way guests will know who to ask if they have allergy questions or if they want to steal the recipe. Last but not least, don’t forget to provide plates, silverware, and coolers for beverages.
9. Keep Kids Entertained
It’s important to include a few activities to keep kids busy, so parents can nosh and chat. There are tons of low-budget and high-fun games out there like hula hoops and sidewalk chalk. One particularly creative option is to gather a bunch of cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes, crayons, and tape. Then let the kids design and build whatever they want. Whatever you do, don’t provide the kids with paint. As one of our neighbors recently learned the hard way, kids + paint – supervision = a massive mess.
10. And Last But Not Least, Use Alternative Name Tags
Name tags are great! They signal to your guests that this is an event where it is not only acceptable to approach strangers but encouraged. You can take traditional name tags to the next level and stir up some great conversations by adding a quirky question to each card for guests to answer. The website Icebreaker Nametags will even help you create a template.
By: Kelly Fedderson
SE Uplift Community Resource Program Manager