Few things bring neighborhoods together like a good old-fashioned block party. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, catch up with friends, enjoy good food and entertainment, and let kids (and sometimes pets) hang out—all while sharing the responsibilities of making it all happen and cleaning up after it’s done. A block party is a community-building activity in so many ways! 

Whether you’ve attended a block party in the past or are completely new to the idea, there are a few basic steps you can take to make it easier and more fun for everyone. The list below will help you enter into the world of block party planning! 

1. Organize and Delegate 

  • Find people who are willing to help coordinate sign-ups, produce and distribute flyers, collect money, book entertainment, clean up, etc. Knowing the gifts (talents, skills, abilities) of the people in your neighborhood will really help you here. You can identify needs early on and ask people to help based on their gifts. Or, you can even craft your plan around gifts you know you have: neighbor caterers, coaches, musicians, artists, teachers, grill masters, etc. Knowing who you have can help you involve them in areas where they are comfortable. It’s important to gather a small team of several people ahead of time to get your planning off to a great start. 
  • Choose a date at least two months out that’s not near a holiday or busy time such as back to school. Have a back-up date in case of rain. You could choose to celebrate along with National Good Neighbor Day, September 28 (or the weekend closest). In my own neighborhood, a Sunday evening in September or October works well.  
  • Find out if your city requires you to get a block party permit. These are usually free or low-cost, and sometimes come with perks like street barricades. It’s also good to let your local police department know about the party; you may be able to request barricades from them if needed. 
  • Determine where you’ll have the party. Choose a large, open street area where kids can play and adults can hang out, where there is room for activities, and where you can set up tables, seating, BBQ grills, trash cans, etc. Be a good neighbor and give a heads-up to the houses you’ll be closest to. 
  • Decide on the food! One fairly low-cost option is to have a potluck-style block party with hamburgers and hot dogs grilled during the party for the main dish. You could also hire a food truck (check with your city first), or have people bring main dishes. Food is another area where you can lift up people’s gifts. Does someone own a restaurant who can cater? Do you have different cultures in the neighborhood that you can involve through cultural dishes or by considering food restrictions (such as no pork or kosher foods only)? You can even have a block party in the middle of the day and just provide snacks. Whatever you choose, food is a great way to bring everyone together.  
  • Before announcing the party, create a Google doc for sign-ups, or some other way for people to indicate what they’ll do or bring. You’ll want categories for things such as food (side dishes, buns, condiments, and desserts if you’re grilling meat), money contributions for meat and/or a hired entertainer, BBQ grills/grill volunteers, tables (or rent them), paper products (napkins, plates, utensils), trash cans, clean-up duty, etc. Don’t forget drinks—someone can provide them or people can bring their own. Not everyone loves spreadsheets, but getting everything written down will help you. If that’s not your thing, find someone with this gift! 

2. Get the Word Out 

  • Include this information on your flyer: date/time, where (identify by house number or landmark), how/where to sign up, what to bring (food, your own drinks, your own chairs or blanket, etc.), “bursts” to announce the entertainment or activities, and your neighborhood Facebook page info or a phone contact. If your party happens to require a set cost or entry fee, say that here as well. 
  • Deliver the flyers door to door, and post in a common area, if there is one. 
  • Announce the block party to your social media group with a link to the sign-up sheet. Post questions or reminders as the date gets closer. 
  • Don’t forget word of mouth! Talk to your neighbors during walks, across the fence, etc. Make sure they’ve heard about it! 

3. The Fun Is in the Details 

  • Make sure you designate places for seating (chairs and blankets), trash cans, and entertainment or activities. 
  • Set out name tags and a Sharpie. At the beginning of the party, walk around with some tags for those who might have missed them. 
  • Entertainment/activities for kids and adults—here’s a partial list of ideas: a balloon artist (this was the biggest expense but a huge hit at our recent block party), a visit from a fire truck or ambulance, wagon rides or a bike parade for young kids, face painting (you might have an artistic neighbor who can do this), ball games for kids, inflatables (pros and cons: they’re fun but they cost money and can have liability issues), bubble machines for the youngest kids, live music if someone knows a band or performer, a magician or other kid-friendly performer, chalk for the street or sidewalks, bean bag toss or other classic yard games. Your local library may have lawn games to check out, and many cities have block party trailers or supplies for neighborhoods to use. 

4. Help the Party Run Smoothly 

  • The organizers should keep an eye on napkins, utensils, name tags/Sharpies, trash cans, food supply, etc. Have fun and socialize, but also be aware and stay somewhat in “host mode” throughout the party.  
  • Introduce people who may not know each other. Hopefully this will happen naturally, but you can facilitate this, especially if you have new neighbors, or those who may have things in common. This is another great way to use people’s gifts: if you have some natural connectors in your neighborhood, give them the job to connect people together! 
  • Feed the entertainers! Offer food and a drink to anyone who provides entertainment or activities at your block party—firefighters, performers, artists, etc. 

5. Plan for the Clean-Up 

  • Begin the clean-up process while some neighbors are still there, and everyone will probably pitch in to help. But if not, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance and give each person a job to do.  
  • Take full trash bags back to set out with your own trash or distribute them among a few others. 
  • If you find items that people left behind, keep them together and post a picture the next day in your social media group to locate the owners. 

Most of all, have fun while making this community-building, feel-good event happen for your neighborhood! Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll probably find that it all comes together pretty easily if you have neighbors who are excited about it and want to help—and you’re likely to make new friends in the process. There’s nothing quite like a block party to bring a neighborhood together for a fun and relaxing time that everyone can enjoy!