The “block” in Block Party can be whatever you define. Maybe it’s your whole street or subdivision, or maybe it truly is just your block. If you think you might get some party crashers, use a check-in station and give wristbands to those who live within the party’s defined area. Require the wristband to obtain food and drink.
Organizing Food and Drink
There are two ways to go about this: catered or potluck. Most block parties do potluck. The easiest way to do it is assign certain houses to bring either a side dish, dessert, utensils, or meat product for the grill. If you wish to have it catered, sell tickets and require advance payment.
Of course, one party does not fit all blocks. You must take into account your residents’ lifestyles and interests! A party on a block of singles and couples in Wicker Park should be very different than one in a kid-dense subdivision in Huntley.
…for the adults
Wine or beer tasting: everyone brings their favorite wine or microbrew. This can be a casual sampling…no need to do tasting notes and bags to cover the bottles, unless someone is dying to organize that!
Book exchange: Marty from Oak Park coordinates a book exchange for her block party. In the week leading up to the party, her neighbors drop off unwanted books on her porch, which she then sorts into categories. They’re displayed during the party and everyone is free to take any that strike their fancy. At the end of the day, Marty packs up the leftovers and brings them to the library book sale.
Local talent: Would the violinist next door want to play for a half hour? Do you have some crafters eager to sell their wares? A neighbor who’s finally done rebuilding a classic car and wouldn’t mind displaying it? Send out an open call for hidden talents and you might be surprised to learn what your neighbors are up to!
…for the kids
Nothing ends a block party faster than bored kids! Try the following:
Cupcake decorating contest
If you decide that your block party will have a theme (Circus, Oktoberfest, Western, etc.) tell the kids they can dress in costume, then do a decorated bicycle parade.
If you have a bit more to spend, rent a bouncy house or hire a magician. Teens will be receptive to the magician, especially if they are more of an “illusionist” type.
Don’t forget the music! Hook an iPod loaded with classic rock and pop to a portable stereo. 60s-80s is a good bet, although it depends on your neighbors’ age range. Go more recent for a younger crowd. For a really festive atmosphere, hire a band that plays cover tunes!
Of course, always be sure you’re in compliance with your municipality’s block party guidelines. Contact your city hall for more information. The Chicago-based Neighbors Project has more tips, including a handy how-to guide.
Photo Credit via Flickr by bredgur
About the Author: Jennifer Dunham Luby is a Chicago area native and hostess extraordinaire. When she's not out exploring the social scene, Jen and her husband love to entertain in their Wicker Park home. She writes SecondCitySoiree.com, a blog featuring advice, ideas, and inspiration for home entertaining. Follow her on Twitter @SecndCitySoiree