When we purchased our house three years ago, the realtor had told us what a great neighbourhood we had, and how they threw block parties at the end of summer, which I, of course, thought was the bee’s knees. However, the first summer passed with no party. The second summer was half of over, and still no word of a party. I mentioned it to my new neighbour who had just moved in that summer, and she said “Well, let’s throw a block party of our own! What better way to get to know everyone, right?”
She was totally right. AND… it turns out the people who used to throw the block parties our realtor told us about? Yeh, they were actually the people we bought our house from. So I guess it’s a torch of some sort now, passed down to us with the house. When (if we ever) sell, we’ll have to put that in the listing – This house comes with block party throwing responsibilities.
Our party last year was a blast. It really was a great way to get to know our neighbours, and I am such a firm believer in knowing those you live around. If my child accidentally gets locked out of the house on a -30 day after school because I’m held up on bus duty, I want her to know people she can turn to. I grew up lending and borrowing sugar and flour from me neighbours and I loove that small town feel. That’s why I loved throwing a block party to meet our neighbours and it went over so well that we’ll definitely be doing it again this year!
So, for those of you thinking of throwing your own block party and don’t really know where to start. Trust me, I was there last year. I had thrown parties before, sure, but nothing on this scale. Was I going to whip out my cricut and make detailed invites for 100-odd homes? Not a chance. Was I going to make tray after tray of cutesy little party food? Hmm… maybe not. Here’s what I learned through planning a block party and what you can use for your own party!
- Keep it simple (Or as my husband likes to say at work, remember the KISS rule – Keep It Simple Stupid). You want to enjoy block parties, not be stressed. That’s not going to make a great first impression on your neighbours who you might be hanging out with for the first time. I’m not one to shy away from fancy at a birthday party, but let me say this again, this is not your kids birthday party. Keep it relaxed, keep it fun, keep it simple.
- Create a flyer type invitation and hand deliver them. Keep the invites low key by printing them at home. I have created a template below that you can use – save the image to your computer and then open in PicMonkey to add your required text. I’ve attached a final copy of mine so you can see what we included. They are sized to fit three on a legal (not letter) sheet of paper – this layout seemed most paper and ink efficient. Once you have them printed, enlist the help of a neighbour or two that you already know, and hand deliver them. I really didn’t want to do this, but my friend convinced me we should, and she was (again) right. Most of the people who came were the people we had spoken to while dropping off the invitation – it’s much more personal than a flyer in the mailbox!
- Decorate wisely! If you’re hoping to make this an annual event, create a couple of pieces of decor that you can use each year. For instance, I created these banners for our block party out of drop cloth, craft paint, and stencils. It cost under $20, and we will be able to use them every year now. We also lined the driveways with some pinwheels that I had for Cecelia’s Summer Soiree party a couple of years ago.
- Don’t spend a lot of money. This was a tough one for me, because I wanted to think of all the details that I thought of with my regular parties. I wanted an ice cream bar with toppings and sauces, I wanted a drink dispenser with fruity flavoured lemonade, I wanted all of the little touches that I usually add. But I had to stop myself and say, this party may be for over 100 people. Do I want to spend all of that money on ice cream? Sure, I could collect a little bit of money from everyone to cover the costs, but think about it. If your goal is to have as many people show up as you can, what’s the best way to get them there? Ask them for money for an ice cream bar that they don’t really care about or ask them to bring a salad to share and meat to grill? Remember… keep it simple. The simpler it is, the more likely everyone will come.
- Use an electronic RSVP system. I used Sign Up Genius. It’s a free tool that allows users to set up events (even password protect them from random people showing up), and allows to guests to RSVP. All you have to do is list the website on the invite. You can also ask questions – so for us, we agreed that the simplest way of organizing food would be to ask each family to bring their own choice of meat and a salad or dessert to share. On the RSVP page, we asked, “What type of salad or dessert will you be bringing?” and with their RSVP, they could leave a note with their dish. Then, every subsequent person that logged on could see what others were bringing. It really was a genius system. However, I did also include a phone number in case anyone wasn’t comfortable or familiar with the electronic method.
- Think about location. For us, we were lucky – we live on a crescent, and there is no through traffic. You go on our street, you basically want to go to someones house on our street. If everyone was at the party, there wouldn’t be too much of a traffic issue. There is also the option of having the street closed – if you live on a busier street and really want to keep it on your street (it helps with bathroom issues!), you could contact your town office about that. Also, any parks that might be inside your neighbourhood are also a great choice!
- Plan a little something for the kids. We had a food section (on the driveway of the house across the street from me) and a games section (on the front yard of my house), and we may as well have put up signs that said KIDS and ADULTS – but it worked out perfectly! On the games side, we just threw out some basic lawn games (lawn golf, washer toss, etc), and decorated with strings of balloons.
The kids stayed over there almost the whole time, and the adults could watch them across the road (no traffic, remember) while socializing and meeting the neighbours. We also had a backyard movie for the kids once it got dark, and the adults that made it up that late, moved the party to another neighbours house.
- Start one thing that can be a tradition at the party. For us, it was Marshamallow Golf. Ever play? You basically put down a small square of astroturf, place a big marshamallow on it, and see who can hit it the farthest with a golf club. This was SO. MUCH. FUN. I can’t tell you how hard we all laughed. A oen dollar trophy from the dollar store, and we’re all talking about who gets the title next year! Seriously… give them something to remember so they’ll want to come back next year!
Are you feeling confident yet? Trust me, you can do this! If you’re still a little weary, check out my Block Party Pinterest Board for more tips and ideas to make your block party a smashing success!