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Block Parties & Neighborhood Socializing
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Block Parties & Neighborhood Socializing
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
My neighborhood has a block party yearly. It has enhanced a
wonderful bond on our street. I don't live in Berkeley and
obviously don't know the needs of your block, so your
mileage may vary.
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
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
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
I love your enthusiasm for getting your neighbors together! I cannot
advise you on the technicalities, but I do urge you to start small.
Since it sounds like the first block party for your neighborhood, why
don't you organize an ice cream social? Pick a date, time (evening after
dinner, but not so late that the kids are in bed), buy ice cream (big 5
gallon chocolate and vanilla), toppings, spoons, bowls and napkins
yourself. Have it on your front yard area/driveway. Make a flyer for the
neighbors to invite them and let them know you'll have ice cream, but
they are welcome to bring an additional treat. Then see who shows up!
Hopefully it will become a summer tradition and will grow naturally into
a larger gathering like you envision or perhaps it will stay simple and
sweet. Either way, your goal of meeting the neighborhoods and developing
community will be reached. Have fun!
Block Parties require a street closure form from the City of Berkeley:
The fee is $15 and I've found it convenient to pick them up in person
Transportation Division, 1947 Center Street, 3rd Floor, Berkeley, CA
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:
I've participated in block parties a few different places
I've lived (Oakland and Moraga). Answers to your questions:
-- 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
-- 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
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
After a few years with young kids and a recent move, my social
life has taken a hit. As part of an effort to feel more
connected to my community, I was thinking of hosting a holiday
party for my neighbors with young children. I've never attempted
an indoor party with so many children, and I was wondering if
anyone has any guidelines they might suggest for how many young
children can comfortably be in one space. We have two pretty
good sized rooms, plus a small play room for use for this
possible party. I'm trying to figure out if this party is
possible-- do we need to wait for Spring when we could be
outside? All the people invited to this party would have
children 7 and under. How many kids and adults would you dare to
invite? What percent would you expect to come? Would you plan
activities to keep kids occupied, like at a birthday party, or
expect them to amuse themselves while the adults mingled? Is
there a way to space the party out so that not everyone is there
at once? And, if so, how to you phrase that in the invitation?
I have fears of being overwhelmed by a mob of wound-up children
and fears of trying to entertain a lone guest waiting for others
to trickle in. I feel foolish for letting all the details
overwhelm me. I guess I'm not a natural hostess. Specific
advice as to the details of hosting would really help me out!
-Hostess with the Mostest Anxiety
We do a party like this every New Year's. We do a pre-New
Year's eve party and invite about 30 neighbors. Most people
stay for an hour, so if you have a 12-3pm gathering, the kids'
visits will be spread out. Many people travel over the
holidays, so you may not get as many people as you think. By
the time they are over 4 - most kids know appropriate behavior -
as do their parents. We have a ''shoes-off'' policy which
really helps keeping dirt and rain out. You may also consider
having a friend help out in the kids room, so their not just
free-playing, but have some guidance. Provide some art tools.
Best of Luck
About a year and a half ago I moved to Emeryville, my son was
two and a half. I happened to chat with two neighbors who
lived across from me--two dads & their toddler son. They'd
been hosting a casual Parents Happy Hour on Fridays. Anyway
now some nearly two years later it now rotates houses every
week, there are about four or five core families who come every
week (kiddos ranging from 16 mos to 4 years) and we all invite
others, both with & without kids, as we like.
it is SO fun. its time for the kids to play, grown ups to chat
etc. sometimes the host goes all out, cooking etc. and
sometimes we order pizza!
I say just let your neighbors know your thoughts--that you're
looking to create community, to meet other parents etc. I
would be willing to bet that they're as anxiously seeking
connection as you are!
If you say ''open house'' on the invite, people will know they can
come anytime you specify (like 2-5). (since you are worried about
entertaining, don't do it during a meal time)
During the holidays, lots of people will have other engagements
or be too tired to come, so it's a good time to try it. Can't
give you a percentage, though--maybe half? Our kind neighbor does
something like this each year and there are never that many people.
Since you are nervous about the kids, how about hiring a teen to
amuse them? If you don't know anyone you can post on parents of
teens list. But at this kind of party each parent SHOULD keep
track of their own kid. Have some non-messy crafts set up in
playroom and an age appropriate video ready to go--you don't need
to entertain them every minute like at a birthday party.
Go for it!
Hi, I think I can help. I did this exact thing last winter and it
went pretty well. We called it an open house and had a really
long time frame, like 12 to 5. Don't try to give people different
time slots, just open it all up to everyone and people will
stagger themselves(those with youngest kids usually turn up
first.) For kid-only parties I plan activities but for this one,
the kids just played and adults talked/took care of kids. Make
sure your children put away any special toys they don't want to
share and make sure there are some good things out for the guest
kids to play with. Also make the backyard available even if it is
cold and have tricycles, balls, and stuff like that out there.
Just put drinks and cups out, and food that can stay out and be
replenished all day long. Have fun. It is an effort but you will
be really glad you did it.
I don't know where you live, but if you are near to a place that has a
you could organize a party around that. Every year I host several other
with small kids, for a party that involves an outing to the Tilden Park
which is near our house. They have it all decorated for the holidays and
Santa there. Everyone gathers at my house for cocktails and appetizers
appropriate for children and adults), and then once it's dark, it's into
cars and off to
the carousel. I stay at home (with whatever adults want to stay back),
appetizers, and get a simple dinner on the table. In the past I've done
mac and cheese, a green salad, and a dessert. Everyone comes back, eats,
children do a book exchange (we specify who buys for whom so children
that work for them), which helps keep the kids busy while the adults
We usually do this on a Sunday night, keeping it a fairly early event
and staying out
of the way of everyone's other holiday obligations on the prime nights.
If you're not near the carousel, you could look for other Santa
opportunities in your
area. Good luck!
How about hosting an Open House? Give the time frame for people to
arrive then they
will be free to come and go during that time frame. It may solve the
problem of having
too many people at once. I would suggest having some activities set up
as well as free
play activities for the kids. If you can hire a teen (friend, sitter,
or neighbor) to keep
the kids occupied and help with the activities that would be very
helpful. Ideas for
activities: crafts, playdough, games, etc.
I have had a lot of parties in my house for friends and neighbors. We
used to have a
950 sq ft house and still could make it work for up to 100 people. Our
new house is a
bit over 2000 sq ft and last spring we hosted a party for 220 people (at
least 75 kids).
It only worked because the weather was nice. I would need to ask you a
questions beyond the info you provide to adequately advise you. If you
help, feel free to email me. But it is do-able. And can be fun.
We had a party once and hired a babysitter (would have been two
if there were more kids). We had movies in one of our kids'
bedrooms, and ordered pizza for all the kids. It worked really
well! I'd put something on the invitation like ''will have kid-
friendly food, entertainment and our favorite babysitter on
I do these sorts of parties quite frequently...Why don't you try
something like an 'open house'that is spread out over three or
four hours...people come and go...parents are in charge of their
own kids...You can have casual appetizers and lots of
wine/beer...costco can do your menu if you are not a confident
cook or your job demands more than party planning allows...
I've had 20-plus kids in my house. Besides some clean up the
next day, it was pretty easy...
I have friends who host a holiday open house every year and it is
FANTASTIC. They ask everyone to bring an appetizer to share,
they provide drinks and some basic appetizers, and then it's
come-and-go as you please. It is the #1 party I look forward to
for the holidays. That way you could spread out the influx of
people, which sounds like it might help.
They usually do have one little craft or activity for the kids,
like decorate a cookie, or make a mini-gingerbread house, or
maybe just some craft stickers and glue sticks to decorate a
holiday picture frame. For adults who might not know each other
they can also ''do'' something to avoid that awkward feeling.
I'll be interested to hear what others say!!
I'd go for the adults only version of the neighborhood get
together. I think you could safely invite 30-40 adults no
problem. You'd be surprised what you can accomodate if your
party is standing room only with beverages and heavy appetizers.
Have a blast
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