LIVING WELL: Block party an ideal way to mark the warm-weather holidays

Who hasn’t walked or driven by a neighbourhood and felt a tinge of envy when he or she came across a block party in full swing? Laughing neighbours spilled out onto front lawns, children enjoying the freedom of prancing in the street, barbecues smoking and coolers overflowing with ice and drinks are just some of the elements to assail the senses. There’s bound to be a DJ or some amusement-type rides to complete the picture, too. Chances are the celebrations continue into the evening hours.

Although a block or street party may seem like it can simply be thrown together with a few conversations among neighbours, there is actually a good deal of planning that should go into executing a neighbourhood event.

Getting started

At the start, a committee or group leader should be put in charge of organizing the event. This is often the person on the street that is friendly with the most people and has a rapport that enables him or her to easily converse with the neighbours and gauge their feelings about a block party and what date would work best. Very often neighbours will be on board with a party idea. It’s safe to expect opposition from a few. These people are under no obligation to participate and can be urged to spend the day elsewhere if a block party would seem intrusive.

The next step is to find out if the town or city has any ordinances regarding neighbourhood parties or if a permit needs to be granted. Because hosting a block party often means closing the street to traffic, it’s adviseable to visit the town hall and find out about the legality of such an event and the guidelines that must be followed. This may include what time the “noise” should cease. Once approval has been granted, the creative ideas can start flowing.

Party planning

Volunteers will be needed to handle the undertaking that is a block party. Funds also will have to be allocated for the event. Some towns have grants available for social events, but very often members of the community hosting the party simply donate an agreed on amount of money to be put toward the festivities. In addition to money, there are a few other areas of consideration.

Food: Resources can be combined to have food catered or to purchase items that will be cooked in bulk and enjoyed by all. However, it is often easier for each individual household to be in charge of their meal for the day. Barbecue fare is some of the simplest food to feed a crowd, and backyard grills can be moved to the street with grill masters donning aprons and spatulas.

Refreshments: Again, homeowners may want to have their own coolers filled with soft drinks. Though alcoholic beverages are commonly found at social events, they shouldn’t be the cornerstone of the celebration. All it takes is one inebriated individual who gets out of hand for law enforcement to close down the party.

Entertainment: Chances are block party attendants will want to be entertained. There should be activities for both adults and children. Party rental businesses can be contacted for rides, moonbounce inflatables, clowns or magicians, and carnival-inspired games. A DJ or band can be hired for musical entertainment. If budgets don’t allow for that, put one person in charge of music and have a playlist of songs available.

Accessories: It’s often the little details that can make block parties fun. Party supply stores carry a host of items that can coordinate with a theme. Online retailers may offer some better deals on bulk items that can be used, such as glow sticks or necklaces.

Advertising: Invitations or postings around the neighbourhood are a must to spread word of the event.

Wrap Up

Each neighbour should be in charge of cleaning up his or her property, as well as the area of the street immediately in front of his or her home. If budget allows, a sanitation service can be hired to sweep the street afterward. The party organizer should be sure to send around an itemized list of what was purchased and how the donated money was spent to promote goodwill among the neighbours. If there are funds left over, these can be allocated to next year’s event if it was a success. Thank you notes to volunteers and donors can be sent out as well.

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Community Events, April 2015

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