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Tips for Starting a Neighborhood Block Party

Build a Sense of Community by Starting a Block Party

By Nan Bauroth on April 2, 2015

Party Pic|
Allen Fine

The best way you can build a sense of community is by starting a neighborhood block party. Created in the ’60s by suburbanites, the neighborhood block party is making a comeback as transient Americans seek to connect in a new city or town. The block party is an ideal way to break the ice with strangers living on your street and forge bonds of friendship that make you glad to call your neighborhood home.

Party Pic|
Allen Fine

Chris and Gina Knodle, owners of a Golf USA store in Fayetteville, Ark., live in a two street neighborhood that began staging block parties two years ago and is now so close-knit that residents hold block parties every major holiday, and often spontaneously.

“When school was closed due to the snow, we held a chili and sledding block party on the hill in our backyard,†Gina Knodle says. “That afternoon we had 25 kids and neighbors show up for the fun.”

The common ground in the Knodle’s neighborhood is that most people moved from some place else and have little family nearby.

“Friends are like family,†she says. “Everybody knows everybody’s kids and pets. In an emergency, I know three or four families I could totally trust to care for my child. It’s a wonderful place to live because I never feel home alone.”

Six Tips for a Successful Block Party

  1. Canvass everyone in the neighborhood to find a date that works best. The number one rule is you must invite every neighbor. Create party name tags to help people get easily acquainted.
  2. Choose a theme around a holiday or food. Knodle’s neighbors recently threw a Cuban Night block party with everyone bringing a different dish. “Food and fellowship go together,†says James Schend, Food Editor at Taste of Home, which has an entire recipe section devoted to potluck dishes that serve 10 to 12 people. To avoid duplication, he suggests circulating a sign-up sheet or email. “You should also put a sticky pad on the buffet table, so people can note the name of their dish and any food allergy ingredients such as nuts or dairy.† 
  3. Obtain necessary permits if you block off your street. In Portland, Ore., neighborhoods must obtain an insurance application if they want to block a street with an intersection or is used by public transit. The city of Roanoke advises organizers to check city regulations regarding insurance liability.   
  4. Make it fun for kids. Some neighborhood block parties rent bounce houses or other amusement activities. But Good Housekeeping suggests traditional entertainment like water balloon tosses, egg-spoon relays, or book and game swap tables work best. 
  5. Keep it informal. Knodle says the secret of their block party success is simplicity. “We don’t do anything too structured. On the 4th of July, we just watch fireworks and children run through the sprinklers.†Schend also advises not getting too complicated. “You can get a lot of convenience items at the big-box stores or just use something you already have, like a fold-up table, that doesn’t cost anything.â€

A final nice touch is the tradition of inviting your local police and fire department as a gesture of thanks for these heroes who protect your neighborhood.

When school was closed due to the snow, we held a chili and sledding block party on the hill in our backyard. That afternoon we had 25 kids and neighbors show up for the fun.
Gina Knodle
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