Once a staple in many cities and towns, the neighborhood block party is making a comeback. Sometimes held as simply a community get-together and other times conducted in order to address a specific issue relevant to the neighborhood, the block party does not just happen; there is a need to coordinate tasks in order for the event to be successful.
Because there are many tasks that are involved in putting together a block party, it is a good idea to begin with a planning committee. Spread the word by sending a letter to each residence in the area. If there is a neighborhood watch group already in place, ask them to spread the word through their usual means of communication. Set a date and a place to formally organize the committee.
While the exact structure of the planning committee will vary, there are a few functions that will always be needed. In order to pull off a successful block party, there must be a chairperson to keep everyone motivated. Someone will need to handle publicity, while someone else will need to be function as the treasurer. If holding the party will involve blocking off streets, someone will need to see to the legalities, such as obtaining a permit and working with local law enforcement to arrange for traffic to be diverted during the time of the party. In addition, someone will need to oversee food, cooking equipment, tables and chairs, decorations, and the arrangement of any entertainment. Use that first planning session to identify needs and secure volunteers for each of the essential tasks.
Determining the date and time for the block party is very important. Ideally, you want to hold the party on a day of the week when the majority of the neighbors can attend. Saturday is often a good option, as well as a Sunday afternoon. A long holiday weekend is often an excellent choice. Go with a time of year when the weather is pleasant and there is less of a chance for rain or other inclement conditions that could derail the event.
Unless everyone in the neighborhood wants to prepare food and combine the offerings into a huge potluck meal, you may want to consider inviting local vendors to set up at the event. This can provide everyone with choices such as hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecue, and other fun foods. The vendors get the publicity and may even offer a discount on their usual prices in exchange for the public relations.
However, there is nothing wrong with a private block party where the residents provide all the food themselves. You can go with a central theme, such as a neighborhood barbecue, or allow everyone to prepare his or her specialty dishes. Just make sure to maintain an ongoing list of who is preparing food, and what they are providing. Otherwise, you may find yourself with an overabundance of fried chicken and no potato salad or baked beans to go with the chicken.
If at all possible, plan the block party several months in advance. This provides time for adjustments or additions to the plans to be made if necessary, and will keep the stress level down for everyone. Keep in mind that the idea of the party is to build community pride, encourage good relations between neighbors, and in general make your neighborhood a more inviting place to live. Planning well and allowing plenty of time to get everything done in a timely manner will go a long way toward reaching those goals.