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One of the many things I love about our neighborhood is that we all know each other and often get together on a whim to drink wine, bbq and watch our kids play together.  In a big city such as ours, especially a fairly urban area (we live 5 minutes from downtown), this type of neighborly camraderie is often only seen in movies and t.v.  No doubt, we are lucky.  Our neighborhood is quite simply – retro.  Filled with craftsman and spanish houses dating back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, as well as many local markets, restaraunts and stores, our neighborhood is undergoing gentrification.  Personally, I believe it’s because no one has a garage they can just drive into and run into their home without saying hello to a single person.  Most of us have the original carriage house from the 1920’s (not exactly the size of cars these days) and therefore, we park in our driveways and actually see and talk to our neighbors.  While the neighborhood association throws a large block party down our main street, many of us on our block have thought about throwing a small one for us.  Many of us have children who are around the same age and as we chase our kids down the street we’re getting to know each other even better.  So, let’s see what it would take for us to throw a block party (this list should fit for all/most neighborhoods):

  1. Make It Legal:  No, you can’t just throw up some barricades and decide that your street is closed;)  However, once you’ve cleared the idea with a certain amount of neighbors (most cities have a required number – usually everyone must sign off), it is fairly easy to find block party permits online in most cities.  Simply type the following into your Google search engine “[name of City] block party permit”.  Here is the link to San Diego’s Block Party Permit Application.
  2. Ask For Help:  Regardless of how ‘laid back’ you want your block party to be, there are still a number of particulars that you won’t want to take on all by yourself.  Gather a group of people who are willing to do various tasks – getting other neighbors to sign the petition and/or donate money towards the event, someone to rent/transport the barricades, someone willing to talk to the Fire and Police Department if you want a truck or car to come for the kids, someone to be in charge of kids activities, etc.
  3. Get Organized:  We love Evite!  This type of party is perfect for sending out informal email invitations.  The best part is you can request people to sign up for what food they’re going to bring to the block party making organization and communication even easier.  Next, create a spreadsheet of who is doing what and when.
  4. Be Creative:  This is a family event, so be creative and get your kids involved with some fun activities like having them paint the block party banner the day of the party.  It’s okay that it won’t be hung up right away, the fun part is in the making of it.  Have a station set up for kids’ crafts like making party hats, costume dress up, side-walk chalk, ice cream sundae station (this one is for adults too), bean bag toss – you can create a carnival style atmosphere just by putting tables end to end and setting up a blow up pool in the middle with floaties creating a coin toss.
  5. The Logistical (i.e. Not-So Fun) Stuff:  Often overlooked items when planning a party are the logistical ones – remember to set out trash and recycle cans throughout the length of the block so trash doesn’t end up in people’s yards.  Decide ahead of time if each household will bring their own plates, utensils, etc. or if someone will be donating them for everyone.  Decide where on the block the majority of the party will be held – set-up music & food in that location with activites and crafts on either end in order to get everyone mingling in a central location.  If you’re going to need electricity for anything (bouncy house, etc.) be sure to find a neighbor willing to ‘donate’ the use of their electricity.  Check the weather – be prepared to take it inside – you may have to do a progressive party from house to house.
  6. Decorate:  A block party needn’t be over-the-top.  Stick with fun and easy decor like balloons, cardboard signs made by the kids, cover the tables with butcher paper and have the kids draw on them (easy clean-up too).  Have the kids cut triangles out of construction paper and decorate them to create cute pennants.  Punch holes in them and string them along the pop-up tents.  Ask the kids to pick wild flowers in people’s gardens (who have given permission) to place in mason jars or clear cups as floral decor for the tables.
  7. Feast on Food:  Potluck style is easiest, but there are some variations on the potluck.  Between the cost of meat and the various dietary restrictions, it is best to either have the guests cook and bring their own entree along with a side-dish, or have someone available as the ‘BBQ’er’ who can bbq the meat that everyone brings.  In either case, everyone brings their entree and a side dish/salad/dessert to share.  If you’re lucky enough to have someone on your block willing to buy and prepare all the meat then GO FOR IT! 
  8. Sip on Drinks:  When it comes to alcohol we suggest one of two options, (1) have each house have their own cooler of alcohol to share that is supervised by an adult, or (2) have a specific area (like a beer garden only you can leave) where adults bring all the alcohol and someone is designated to supervise the area (central location is best).  To keep the kids hydrated (and minimize waste) we suggest asking everyone to bring their own re-usable bottle and have sun tea containers filled with water, ice tea, fruit drinks, etc.  Obviously, soda is an easy option to throw into non-alcoholic ice buckets too.

A block party is such a great way to get to know your neighbors, run the kids ragged (hee hee), and a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the warm summer weather.  You never know who you may meet and what new and exciting adventures await you;)

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