There was a day when people actually knew their neighbors...when families would go outside to barbecue, and kids would ride their bikes through the neighborhood or play dodgeball till dark. We felt comfortable asking the family next door for a "cup of sugar" (or maybe just a fresh tomato from their beautiful garden); and playdates with the Jones' family down the street was a regular thing.
As the world becomes more digital (and less personal), there is a real movement across the cul–de–sacs to re-ignite traditional community values and friendships.
At HearthSong, we believe it's past time to r–ignite the feeling of community—real handshakes and hugs, sharing belly–busting laughter over a game, patting satisfied tummies over the neighbors' homemade fudgy brownies—of knowing and caring for those people right–next–door who can actually help in a real–life pickle.
Do you know who lives right next door to you? How about that new family you've meant to reach out to, but just haven't had time? Or maybe it's that sweet couple who's been married forever, and still hold hands as they walk down the street? Whether you've just moved to the neighborhood, or still don't know most of your neighbors, throwing a Neighborhood Block Party is a great way to help create community on your block or street. They were summertime staples in the past, and they deserve a come–back!
Here’s a helpful checklist when you are planning your Block Party:
- Delegate tasks. Don't tackle everything on your own, or you'll be too pooped to party. Perhaps one family can make and distribute the invitation, one can provide tables for food and activities, one can manage decorations, one can handle the music, etc.
- Decide on the ideal party spot that is "common ground" for most of your neighbors. It may be the biggest yard in your neighborhood, a quiet cul–de–sac, or a nearby park. **Note: please check with your local authorities before shutting down your street. Some localities require permits; some will actually provide street barriers, trash cans, signs, etc. **
- Send out invites (paper, social media, and even old–fashioned phone calls) early enough to give your guests plenty of time to plan. 3-4 weeks ahead of the big day is ideal. You can post signs and even go door–to–door if your neighborhood permits.
- It's essential to set some ground rules. Here's a few to think about before your big day:
- Mark off–limit areas (such as flowerbeds, driveways, etc.) with signs and/or tape.
- Designate bathroom usage (if you're in someone's yard, will that family be ok with folks using their facilities; should you consider renting a portable restroom for the day?)
- Make sure it's understood that this is a family–friendly event, and set expectations on whether alcohol will be permitted.
- Are pets allowed and/or encouraged? If so, keep Fido on a leash...and make sure the kiddos ask for permission before petting him.
- Set a designated end–time.
Now we're getting to the good stuff, the Block Party Essentials: Fellowshipping with Family & Friends, Food, and Fun!
1. Fellowshipping with Family & Friends: A block party is a great place to make new friends and re-acquaint yourself with old neighbors.
- Ask family members to wear similar–colored shirts.
- Provide name tags—first name only, family name only, or even what street you live on.
2. Food: What's a party without some finger–licking grub?
- Pot–luck Theme: Let your guests decide what they want to bring, giving them a chance to show off their own special delish dish.
- Sign–up Sheet: To avoid 10 potato salads...and no fruit, send out a sign–up sheet (meat, sides, desserts, etc.) ahead of time.
- BYO...Sides!: The host provides the meat and drinks, the guests bring their favorite sides or desserts.
- Catering or Food Truck: This takes some of the pressure off the host, but you might want to ask guests to pitch in for the cost.
- Don’t forget the basics, like utensils, napkins, trash bags, hand sanitizer, pop–up tables and chairs, canopy tents.
3. FUN!! Here's a few block party ideas from your HearthSong family:
- Have a bicycle–decorating contest...then parade down your street!
- Family relay races (egg and spoon, water balloon, 3–legged, potato sack).
- Play sidewalk Pictionary.
- Have a baking contest or chili cook–off.
- Don't forget the music! Look up fun kids party playlists, or just blast old-time rock & roll, sing–along faves, or chart–toppers from all musical eras. Be sure to include those dance numbers that will have everyone (young and old) up and on their feet: Chicken Dance, YMCA, Macarena, Electric Slide, and U Can't Touch This!
- When the sun goes down, you might even want to show an outdoor family movie, or roast marshmallows on a bonfire.
Remember, the fastest way to foster community spirit and strengthen bonds between families and friends in a neighborhood is by spending quality time together.
Share your Neighborhood Block Party tips and pics with us @hearthsong!