An old-fashioned block party can be one of the true delights of late summer. Getting the neighbors out and mingling is loads of fun, and it helps keep your neighborhood safe by providing a sense of community and togetherness. To really get people involved, liven up your party and think beyond traditional hot dogs and water balloons.
Play with a theme
Food, decorations, games, even clothing, can all revolve around a theme. Consider incorporating a Rib Fest where everyone cooks, eats, and judges a slab of ribs. If you’re all fans of a professional or college sports team, think about a sports theme. Keep the Olympic celebration alive with an international theme. Each household can choose a country, then make a flag, teach a game, and serve some food from that country.
Silly activities lighten the mood
Volleyball and badminton are great for the sporty types, but fun and funny activities bring all kinds of people together. Consider games with unlikely pairings: a parent-and-child relay race or grown-ups careening down the block on tricycles. Limbo and hula hoop contests allow spectators and players to get involved so no one’s left standing on the sidelines. A pie-eating contest can be the highlight of the night. Simply spray whipped cream into a pie pan, have people hold their hands behind their backs, lean forward, and dig in. The kids love watching their parents pig out!
Keep the area small
The block may be long, but don’t use all of it. It will be too spread out for true interaction amongst the neighbors. Set up just a section for food, eating, and registration. Have a few tables, preferably long ones to encourage people to eat with other families. Arrange extra chairs in a large circle. Stage a registration area with nametags and house numbers. As people pick up their nametags, have them write down their email addresses to help keep everyone in touch. You can decorate the area with balloons and festive tablecloths. Then use the rest of the space for games, crafts, and bike riding.
More ideas for your next block party—>
Mix & mingle with a jingling beat
Have a few pre-planned, traditional games to break the ice. Consider a neighborhood trivia contest (who has gone skydiving? who has lived in more than three states?). Collect a fact from each adult in advance. At the party, everyone must try to figure out who matches up with each fact. Plan a group photo and include a funny face shot; email it to everyone later. Twenty questions is a classic, for good reason. (Pin a different celebrity’s name on everyone’s back; people can ask 20 yes or no questions to determine which celebrity they are.)
Design a block banner
This is an activity and a decoration all in one. Cut a bed sheet in half and paint the block name. At the party, have everyone sign it and place their handprint on it. Hang it every year from two poles or trees in the street.
Throw a talent show
Now’s the time to reveal those hidden talents! Maybe you have a guitarist or a comedian on your street. Encourage people to get together and plan out a short sketch or comedy piece. Even a talented animal could have a turn in the spotlight. You may be surprised at the types of talent all around you. Use someone’s front porch as a stage and shine a light on it. A good game of charades also makes use of the front-porch stage.
Fun after dark
When the streetlights go on, let the classics shine. Teach the kids how to play flashlight tag. Light some sparklers. Bring out a fire pit and roast marshmallows. Or just sit back and enjoy the stars—and the company— in your neighborhood.
Laura Amann is a freelance writer and the mother of four children. She has dipped her face in whipped cream and sung off-key at numerous block parties.