Sunday, June 23, 2013

Community Building: Throwing A Block Party

All the houses on our four-year-old cul-de-sac have now completed construction and been sold, so the timing is right to start a neighborhood tradition and make friends with the neighbours. At a Christmas get-together, the idea of a block party met with enthusiasm, so I decided to get the ball rolling and start the process. Once the idea was out there, several of my neighbours banded together as an informal planning committee, and things fell together easily.

Here's what we did:

1. Our city has a great block party kit on their website, along with a link to the permit you need to close the street for a day. So, check your municipality for a similar resource. (GOOD also put together a great resource with their Neighborday Toolkit.)
2. I modified the questionnaire in the block party kit, printed a copy for each house on the block, and went door-to-door dropping them off (which helped me meet a few families I'd not met before, as a bonus). The questions boil down to: What dates work best for your family? What format works best for your family? Would you like to help with planning? 
3. Once I had gotten the responses (only a 1/3 response rate, plus a couple of people who replied verbally), I compiled the answers to choose the best date and answers, and got in touch with those who said they were interested to set up a coffee date for the planning committee to brainstorm. We chose a Saturday evening in June for the party.
4. At this point, a couple of my neighbours from the informal committee took the ball and ran with it. Invitations were made and taped to the door of each home on the block, and emails flew back and forth to assign the few tasks needed to make things run smoothly.

Much of the credit for party organizing belongs to Bobbi - thank you, Bobbi!

The format we chose, in the end, was a simple on-street party beside the small park (really a cluster of wild rose bushes and evergreen shrubs) at the end of our cul-de-sac. We suggested people bring their own chairs and beverages, and snacks to share, and we prepared some hot dogs and hamburgers (not ideal for families with food restrictions, but easier to plan). We were lucky to qualify for a street party food package from Terwillegar Community League - a pilot project we hope other community leagues will decide to replicate!

One of the delicious hamburgers provided by TCL.
Connie bringing trays out after barbequeing the food provided by TCL. 
Thank you, Terwillegar Community League!
We set the street up with a couple of tents, a portable fire pit, a few folding tables, and the coolers and chairs that everyone brought. We got a bounce house for the little kids to play on, and one of the neighbors put their basketball net out for the bigger kids. A couple of us brought sidewalk chalk and bubbles for the little ones, and hula hoops for kids of all ages.

The little ones checking out Bobby's DJ setup.
The kids also took turns giving each other wagon rides.
Sidewalk chalk art
Their first time trying smores
Even after the rainstorm began, the party kept going strong.

Making smores in the rain
Dance party in the garage, viewed through flash-lit raindrops
But those of us who stuck out the rain...
...were rewarded with a gorgeous rainbow as the sun set.
The weather for the rest of the evening was lovely,
so we swapped out the wet chairs for dry and continued into the wee hours.
We would definitely recommend having a fire pit to gather around as the light fades.
(It also allows food to be reheated campfire-style.)

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