I think most people will agree that there are advantages to knowing your neighbors. What if you're baking and run short on sugar? Where will you turn to borrow a cup if you don't befriend a neighbor?
Kidding aside, it's beneficial for the safety of our homes and children that neighbors look out for one another. It's helpful if neighbors can spot a stranger on the street, and especially if one is lurking near your home.
Children need to know where they can turn in an emergency and the difference between a friendly neighbor and a stranger. A concerned community helps to create a sense of well being and safety for all.
With the hectic lifestyle most of us lead, it's much harder to get to know our neighbors than it used to be. Between rushing to our jobs, racing to drop the kids at daycare, running off with them to soccer practice, or catching up on weekend errands, people seem to spend very little time around their home. As I work from home throughout the day, all I see are minivans pulling in and out of driveways, but no living people out on the street.
That's why many communities organize block parties. Block parties provide the opportunity for neighbors to socialize at least once a year, and even if you don't become best friends, it becomes a little easier to identify a neighbor from another passerby.
Here are some basic guidelines for organizing a block party.
The specific legalities will vary by township or city ordinances.
Three Months Before
- Form a Block Party Committee consisting of several households and hold an organizational meeting.
- One member should become the main contact person, responsible for sending out invitations, arranging publicity and answering questions.
- Assign one person to handle permits, insurance and other legal requirements. Check with the township office or public works department to get this information.
- Put another person in charge of organizing food and refreshments.
- Appoint another person to be activity coordinator.
- Don't forget to put someone in charge of the clean-up committee!
- Survey the neighborhood to select the date for the party. Send out petitions to all affected residents, if required by ordinances.
- Decide how the food will be handled: Will the Committee purchase food and beverages and simply charge attendees a flat fee? Will the Committee plan a menu and assign recipes to each household? Will you ask everyone to bring a main course and beverage for their own family, and a side dish to share with others? Will you be serving alcoholic beverages and are any special permits or insurance required?
One Month Before
- Send out invitations. This can be done as part of a neighborhood newsletter or as a separate mailed notice.
- Apply for necessary permits.
- Investigate noise ordinances and see whether any permits are required to keep the party going into the late night hours.
- Make arrangements to get barricades to block off the streets surrounding the party.
- Purchase any necessary insurance to cover the event.
- Make arrangements for toilet facilities, if necessary.
- Reserve equipment you will need to rent such as tables, tents, sound system, etc. Ask everyone to bring their own chairs.
One Week Before
- Publicize the party. This can be signs posted throughout the neighborhood, ads in local newspapers or a phone call chain.
- Confirm all arrangements that have been made with emergency, police and fire departments.
- Confirm arrangements for barricades, entertainment, food, refreshments, tents, tables and any other equipment that will be rented or borrowed.
- Invite the local police and fire departments to visit and give safety demonstrations and tours of their vehicles.
- Organize contests such as a dance contest; a food-eating contest; three-legged races; potato sack races; basketball shooting contests; volleyball tournament. Kick off the day with a parade comprised of floats for the little children and a dressed up bike parade for the older ones.
- Hire a clown or magician to entertain the children with balloon sculptures, magic and face painting.
- Nametags - they may seem geeky, but it's a lot easier than trying to remember everyone's names or doing self-introductions.
- A bullhorn if there will be organized contests and activities.
- Tubs with ice for chilling beverages.
- Coolers for storing perishable foods.
- Store meats separately from other food to protect against contamination.
- Clean up when you're done!
In Cooking for a Crowd, Peggy Trowbridge, About Guide to Home Cooking, has assembled a fabulous collection of links to recipes for large quantities.