Your Neighborhood Needs a Block Party!

When we got ready to buy a house a few years ago, the biggest thing that drew us to Crestwood was the incredible sense of community. Our neighbors are known to put together fun events like Easter egg hunts, water balloon fights, Mardi Gras parades, and alley parties. So when we bought our lovely little 1950’s home, we knew we wanted to be a part of encouraging that feeling of “community” on our street! Thanks to my husband’s brilliant idea to host a summer block party, you can find us hanging out with around a hundred neighbors in our yard one Saturday a year!

We’ve continued the tradition for five years now, and every year we have so much fun. It’s become a staple on our street – and something we all look forward to summer after summer! We’ve made some wonderful memories with our adult neighbors, and the kids on our street literally count down to this event all year long! We love knowing that we’re creating cherished childhood memories for them too.

If right now you’re thinking, “My neighborhood needs a block party!” – then keep reading! After five years, we’ve pretty much perfected our plan – and we would love to see it replicated in your neighborhood, too!

These days we all spend way too much time hiding behind smart phones and computer screens, and not enough time getting to know (and love) our neighbors. So here are just a few easy tips to create a fun and memorable block party that your community will enjoy year after year!

Choose a few neighbors to help co-host.

If you don’t know any of your neighbors yet, don’t let this first step deter you! You can always start small the first year and host a potluck style party for your street by yourself. However, if you have a few community-minded neighbors who don’t mind pitching in, it’s a great way to insure an awesome event!

Our little block hosts our party each year, and we have at least 5-7 families that pitch in to make it possible. We start by choosing an early date (due to the Alabama heat, we host ours in late May or early June). Once we’ve found a Saturday where most of our co-hosts are available, we divvy up responsibilities. Everyone invites their friends throughout the neighborhood, and each family provides $30-50 worth of items so that no one is burdened with a big cost. Then they drop it all off at our house around lunchtime on party day!

Free food always brings a crowd!

As the party hosts, the neighbors on our street provide the main food and drinks each year. We grill hot dogs, get cases of individual bags of assorted chips from Sam’s (so leftovers don’t get stale), and provide condiments, paper plates, napkins, cutlery, and cups. All the neighbors bring their personal coolers over, and we fill them up with bottled water, juice boxes for the kids, canned cokes, and beer. Small chalkboards are used to label what’s in each cooler, and three borrowed tables are set up in the shade to hold the food. Then we ask the other neighbors who attend to bring a side or dessert to share!

My husband, the grill master!

Neighbors on our street who have their own table and chairs usually pull them to their front yard for the evening, along with extra bag chairs and blankets on the lawns. Those who don’t live on our street mill around to find a comfortable place to sit, eat, and get to know each other. We’ve had people ask about providing “tips” to offset the cost of the party – so we set out a tip jar and split the total at the end of the night. It helps those who aren’t hosting be a part of keeping the party going!

*Don’t forget to recycle! We designate one trashcan with a sign as the “recycle” spot for plastic bottles and aluminum cans. It helps reduce the waste from the event!

Music makes any event more fun!

If free food isn’t enough to draw a crowd . . . music will certainly help! As a singer myself, I knew that live music would make this party a lot more fun. We’re lucky enough to have some awesome musicians in Crestwood (like J. Patrick Reed, pictured below) and almost every year we’ve had a neighbor play and sing for the party. Our nextdoor neighbor also helped found Birmingham Mountain Radio – so between sets we blast some tunes from BMR on our speakers!

Don’t have a speaker? You probably know someone who does (so ask around to see if you can borrow one!) I’d recommend setting up under a tailgating tent to keep the sound system safe from rain and sun. Just don’t forget to be aware of noise ordinances and be sensitive to a cutoff time for the music that night. We’re lucky to have great neighbors and have never had a complaint. We have actually had some neighbors post online about enjoying the music from their backyards!

Provide activities for the children.

I’m not sure about your neighborhood, but in ours we have A LOT of children! We actually have 13 kids just on our block (with two more on the way!) We want the kids to enjoy the party as much as the parents, so we make sure to have some special things for them each year.

One neighbor borrows a “bouncy house” from their church, another buys fun things like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and glowsticks for a small “kids’ table,” and then we set up at least one yard full of kiddie pools and sprinklers for the little ones to enjoy. We also try to have a few bowls of water set out for any neighbors who bring their pets along.

Don’t forget to spread the word!

If no one knows about your event, then no one will come! You have to do a little prep work to make sure it’s a success. Our neighborhood uses the Nextdoor app that keeps us all connected, and posting there is a great way to spread the word! The app also includes a template to print off event flyers, so we drop a few of those off at nearby houses and post one at the local coffee shop. You should also text the neighbors whose numbers you have, and post to your neighborhood Facebook page (if you have one). No Nextdoor app or Facebook page? Then try a yard sign! A simple sign that reads, Block Party This Saturday! You’re Invited, Neighbor! will get the attention of any neighbors driving by. Just be sure to put it out a week in advance!

Me with my sweet girl – at her first block party!

The day of our event, we tie balloons up at both ends of our street to help people spot the party. This year I think we’re going to add some signs that read Block Party! Welcome, Neighbors! so that new neighbors understand it’s not a private event and they’re invited too.

Be prepared to stay up late!

This is totally an “optional” tip to take – but it’s one I would highly recommend! We typically start our party around 4:30 or 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon and have the hot dogs ready at 5:30 or 6:00. Most neighbors stay and enjoy the music until about 9:00. But it’s after the main party that some of our best memories have been made! 

Once the crowd is gone — our street stays up. The kids all know it’s the one night of the year when they get to stay up “super late” (which they love!) They run around playing until they wind down, and then they usually end up piled together watching a movie or telling ghost stories. We grown-ups circle up our chairs in someone’s yard, light the tiki torches, and listen to “oldies” while we tell stories and laugh until our sides hurt. Some of my favorite block party memories are made in those late night circles. You don’t really know your neighbors well until you hear that sweet mom on your street exclaim, “Let’s listen to some Snoop Dogg!” at 1:00 a.m.! Ha! It feels a little like we’re back in college – if only for a night.

When we can’t hold our eyes open any longer, we divvy up the leftovers, put away the party supplies, and head to bed. We complain every year on the “day after the block party” when we all are exhausted from staying up too late . . . but it’s totally worth it for the memories we make!

Does your neighborhood have an annual block party? If not, consider starting one, Mama!

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