We had some great neighbours who have since moved but who spearheaded this endeavour on our block about 5 years ago. I was asked to take in on and so had a lot of organizing to do for September this year. Here’s the basics for holding one of your own:
Pick a date. We chose the 2nd week of September for a couple of reasons. First the spring has such unpredictable weather. Ok – let’s just admit every season does in Calgary! Anyhow – spring is also the round-up parties for most sports which much of our neighbours’ kids participate in. June is end of school and always chaotic and then July & August are busy months with people out-of-town. So September was chosen to be the best month. It’s best to avoid long weekends since people tend to get in last-minute camping and then too far into September you run the risk of chilly days.
Pick a day of the week & time. We chose Saturday from 4-7. This gives people time to do what they need to get done during the day and also a chance for it to run later if people wish. The first couple years we held it the adults took the kids home to bed and then several ended up playing guitar & having wine at another neighbour’s house.
Figure out how much to charge for food. We sent out flyers to all the homes on the block about 4-5 weeks in advance asking people to RSVP. We tried several different ways over the years – asking $5/person or $10/household to pay for food and for each house to bring either an appetizer or dessert. This year I got a sponsor who paid for it but people were still to bring a dish. It really didn’t make a difference to attendance whether it was free or not – although more people exclaimed it was the best party yet. Next year we are thinking of charging $1/hamburger or hotdog and still asking people to bring along a dish.
Figure out how much food to pick up. Again the planning committee had thought of everything from the years before so there was already a list ready for me for shopping. I did the bulk of it at Costco and then picked up other items at smaller grocery stores. We had about 40% of the homes RSVP-ing – some said no but the same # of those who couldn’t come showed without RSVP. Of the 40% the average household had 2 people and half of them had 3+. I counted adults and kids separately (we asked them to note how many of each were coming) and counted 2 meat items/adult and 1/kid. Here’s the complete shopping list.
Each year after you should have left over items like plates and cutlery. We stash them in our garage to pull out every year.
Finding items needed. On the invite we asked people to help us with things like BBQs (we had 2 that people brought out and 2 men offered to do the cooking), coolers to keep the meat in, coffee urns (1 for coffee & 1 for hot water for the hot chocolate or tea – we made decaf at home and brought in a thermos) & tables (plenty of neighbours had folding party tables we were able to borrow to set out food).
We asked people to bring the following: appetizer or dessert (you could choose which side of the street brings what but we never had any problems with too much or too little of either kind), their lawn chairs or picnic blankets, any other drinks they wanted (ie. wine, beer).
You don’t need to get the street closed. Here in the city you need to get all the neighbours to agree and with a 40% reply we knew that wasn’t going to happen. So we simply put up pylons on the street a couple of houses down on either side of the hosting house and stuck up a sign asking people to slow down and watch for the kids.
This was a great way to meet the neighbours. The best reason the have a block party? You meet all the potential babysitters on the street! Another good reason is that it’s a great way to meet the new neighbours who’ve recently moved in – it’s hard to meet people when you are new and so it’s a perfect way for them to realize that they moved onto an awesome street! Thirdly, the kids had a blast! There wasn’t any need for toys or things to distract them – they just all ran around playing and laughing. So plan to chat up the neighbours this year about holding one next fall – we’re already planning party year #6 and hoping there’ll be plenty more to come!
Danielle is mom to a 3.5 year old daughter and 1.5 year old son and always looking for fun things to do with the kids.