11 awesome tips for hosting a neighbourhood block party

By: Paula Cilia

Author: Canadian Living


11 awesome tips for hosting a neighbourhood block party

By: Paula Cilia
This story was originally titled "Rock the Block" in the July 2011 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Celebrate your community this summer with a block party. Whether your "block" is a condo, a row of townhomes, a series of streets or literally just your block, this is not only a great way to meet your neighbours but also a perfect event for Canada Day.

With the right planning and prep work, it'll come together in no time – we'll show you how!

Where do I start?
First ask around to see how many neighbours are interested in attending. Planning a party alone can be a daunting task, so ask for help.

"The key to organizing a block party is having lots of volunteers," says Paul Wentzell, cochair of the Fredericton Civic Pride group, which has been throwing a yearly party since 1992.

Put together a committee and assign someone to:
• be the point person;
• send out invitations and flyers, and respond to RSVPs;
• look after food and local donations;
• get permits, organize costs and find a location;
• organize games and activities; and
• lead the cleanup crew.

When should I have it?

Summer is a busy time for families, so consider putting the day to a vote. Also, suggest a rain date in case Mother Nature isn't cooperating that day or consider having an alternative location (such as a church hall) booked as a backup plan.

Finally, be mindful of certain religious observances and cultural dates within the neighbourhood.

I don't know all of my neighbours, so how do I invite the whole block?
Work with a couple of neighbours you're close with – chances are that between you, you'll have the block covered.

Spread the word by posting a flyer around the neighbourhood or dropping one in everyone's mailbox. Start a group on Facebook or and send people there to get regular updates and give feedback.

Page 1 of 3 -  Planing a party menu? Discover tips for serving a crowd on page 2!

Can we put up barricades and close our street for the day?
Applications for street closures and permit procedures can usually be found with a simple call or visit (in person or online) to your municipal office.

In general, permits take six to 12 weeks to process. If you're thinking of having the party at a park or conservation area, check its (or your city's) website for regulations.

Can we serve alcohol?

Chances are if your party is in someone's garage, backyard or house, you won't need a permit to serve alcohol; but if you set up at a park or on the street, you will.

Most conservation areas and parks have regulations against alcohol consumption. Check with your municipal office.

What about feeding everyone?

First determine the budget per family. Then ask some questions.
• Will you pool money for supplies such as cutlery and napkins, or will each family bring their own?
• Will you be having a potluck or will each family cook for themselves?
• Does anyone have dietary restrictions or allergies that need to be considered?

Once these things are determined, you can decide on the food.

One suggestion: If your community is made up of several cultural groups, ask each family to bring a traditional dish. Not only will you have an array of incredible food, but you'll also learn more about your neighbours.

You can also contact local businesses for food donations – if the whole community is present, they will more than likely participate.

I live in a condominium complex; how can I organize a block party?

This type of party actually may be easier, since everyone is in one central building. Hang flyers in the lobby and ask other tenants for ideas on where to have the party (a nearby park, perhaps?).

If your complex is in a suburban area, talk to the building manager or visit your municipal office to see if you can use the land around your condominium.

For a smaller-scale shindig, simply book your building's party room.

Page 2 of 3 - Worried about messy cleanups? Our tips for clearing the clutter are on page 3.

How can I make the party more eco-friendly?
"Ask everyone to bring their own dinnerware, which they can then wash or reuse," says Lindsay Coulter, the David Suzuki Foundation's Queen of Green.

She also suggests opting for reusable cloth napkins or 100 per cent post-consumer waste paper napkins that can be composted later.

Have ample garbage and recycling bins available (say, two of each for every 20 people).

How can we include kids and teens in the events?

Have different stations for different ages and activities.

Put the tweens and teens in charge of stations such as a craft corner, puppet show or face painting. Or tap into their talents: Musicians can engage in a battle of the bands and kids can put on a magic show.

Another popular option is asking your local fire and police departments to come out with their vehicles and give tours.

Inflatable rentals, such as a jumping castle, will provide hours of entertainment. Hiring an ice cream truck to cruise the party provides a tasty treat.

What types of games and activities are enjoyable for everyone?

Friendly competitions always make for a good time. Pick a dish – ribs or pie, for example – and stage a food battle. A judging panel can choose winners and award prizes.

Organize a baseball game, with opposite ends or sides of the street facing each other. Or set up volleyball and badminton nets to host a kids-versus-parents game.

Do we need to clear the street by a certain time?
Noise bylaws vary by area, so consult your local police station or municipal website for regulations.

You'll also be responsible for tidying up your party area. Offering to pay the neighbourhood teens for the cleanup is a good way to get them involved once the event is done, and a quick way to get it over with.

Page 3 of 3 - Learn how throw a rockin' block party with our advice starting on page 1.

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11 awesome tips for hosting a neighbourhood block party