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More specifically: How do you get the neighbors to actually show up? We don't know our neighbors well, but I think there is a general interest in being neighborly. How do you collect money/ pay for things like a bouncy house, paper goods, and maybe even food (or do people just do potluck?)? How do I go about getting a permit to close off the street from the city of Berkeley? And finally, how wide of a reach would you invite to your block party? Just the block it's hosted on? a couple blocks surrounding? etc.. Sounds like a fun idea- I just need some help getting started. Thanks! dreaming of summer
1) consider times with the best weather; i.e. that magical few weeks between the end of August and the middle of October. Your microclimate may vary.
2) check well in advance with your city as to the rules and availability of permits
3) get a few core people together with whom you chat occasionally, and see if they're interested. With them, form a committee (start with your neighborhood watch group?). You can figure out with their help how far you want to extend invitations. We put the invitations out to our short length of street, invite people to bring friends and family, and each family is requested to bring a potluck dish and donate $25 to cover bouncy, food, entertainment, insurance, etc. We've had as many as 100 peeps but it varies. I'd say start smallish.
4) You'll want 2 trustworthy people to handle the money; they can use Google Docs to keep track of $ that comes in and who RSVPS; a person to coordinate entertainment; possibly someone to create a potluck list (so you don't wind up with all chips and no dip); someone to handle permit and insurance; a setup and cleanup crew.
5) decide if you want a theme, and the date and time. Give yourselves at least 8 hours to set up, party, and clean up. That way people will have time to relax and hang out in the middle.
6) serving booze? Have a responsible adult watching over the area with alcohol. If you're serving something like sangria or hard lemonade, be extra careful to keep it separate from kids drinks, and make sure people mark their cups
7) We have a few key people pay for the permit, reserve a bouncy house, shop at Costco for paper goods, burgers and drinks. They get reimbursed by others who chip in along with their potluck contribution.
8) We sometimes hire entertainment. In leaner times, we just stick with the exceptional musicians on our block. I always face paint because that's my heart's delight. We have bubbles, sidewalk chalk, little wading pools, and water guns. You could put out a craft table, have games, etc. Alana from Alameda
The permit allows you to pick up street barricades from the Berkeley Cooperate yard, but we've never bothered with them. Some ribbons and trash bins do the job quite well.
As for getting your block organized, you'll probably have to invite your neighbors to a meeting. You could hand out fliers. Keoncrest and Catherine happens to be one of the original test blocks for the rBlock web site, and it's been extremely useful in organizing events and keeping neighbors informed: http://www.rblock.com/ Alex
-- You can't guarantee everyone will show up, so I would set a date with a few neighbors, then talk to or pass out flyers to the rest of the block. I would definitely include the surrounding block or two. Whatever makes sense geographically. If only the few neighbors you've planned with show up, at least that is a start. Many people will just wander in to say hi and then leave, but that's cool. You'll be laying the groundwork for future communication/parties.
-- For food, we selected a house or two to be the ''base'' house(s). We had a couple of families pull their grills out to the front lawn of one house or to the curb. We had people bring their own grillable food (if they wanted to grill at all), and then something to share. Again, have the neighbors you've set the date with all commit to something different (drinks, side dishes, desserts), so you at least will have the bases covered.
-- In Oakland, we had someone who was able to set up a small monitor and microphone (like an open-mic deal), and we invited neighbors to share kind of performance. Some of the kids did a puppet show, some did really silly dances, and some played songs on violin, guitar, etc. It was pretty cool. You don't even need the mic or monitor to make that happen. One year, we let the kids have a massive water balloon fight, which many adults joined.
-- I have been fortunate to live on either a cul-de-sac or a street with a big L-shaped turn out, so we never went the route of shutting the street down. No advice there. Maybe for your first one, keep it low-key, then if this one generates interest, do the bouncy house and street closing next year?
Rereading my response, I am remembering how fun these are. I encourage you to do it. The biggest fun is meeting older neighbors who have lived in the area for decades and can fill you in on the history of your street! We haven't done one in a few summers, and you've inspired me to do it this year. Thanks!
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