Host a Block Party on Your Street
Block parties can happen anywhere – a suburban block, a townhouse complex, an apartment buildings, or even in a park. Any of these are great ways to meet your neighbors and build a sense of community on your block. And block parties have long term effects—when neighbors meet each other, they tend to keep an eye out for one another, which makes the neighborhood safer and healthier.
There are lots of different kinds of block parties—this Neighborhow Guide covers just one type. If you want to have a different kind of block party, do it! And then write your own Neighborhow Guide to show other people how.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Kyle Gradinger .
Decide If You Need a Block Party Permit
You will need a permit from the city of Philadelphia in order to close the street for your block party. Before you start planning, confirm that your street is one of the approved streets for a block party by checking with The Streets Department.
Choose a Date
Weekends and holidays are the best options for a block party. You’ll need to submit your block party application at least 3 weeks before the event. So be sure to pick a date that’s about 8 weeks in advance to give yourself enough time to organize and plan with your neighbors.
If you live in an area where bad weather might be possible, you should also plan an alternate date.
Complete the Block Party Application
Download and complete the City of Philadelphia Block Party Application.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Teesha Dunn.
Gather Signatures from Your Neighbors
In Philadelphia you need at least 75% of your neighbors to sign the Block Party Application.
As you go door-to-door asking for signatures, this is a great time to ask neighbors for help with planning and organizing the event. Doing everything yourself is going to be a lot of work. So take this opportunity to find neighbors who are willing to help. And arrange a date for an organizing meeting (see more below).
Pro tip: this is also a great time to collect email addresses from your neighbors! An block email list is an easy way to keep in touch about block issues like safety or schools.
The kind of block party you plan depends a lot on what type of community you live in. Whatever type of block party you have, here are things our block party experts recommend doing.
Get your neighbors involved, so you don’t have to do all the work. Host a small gathering at your house or appartment, or a meeting at a local coffee shop, for those who want to help plan the block party.
At the meeting, the group should divide up into committees who will be responsible for the following areas:
- Food and drink
- Equipment and supplies for food and drink
- Setting up the block - tables and chairs, barricades, umbrellas, etc
Send Out Invitations
Create invitations or flyers and drop these off at each house on the block party street. If you’ve got the email addresses of your neighbors, also consider using a tool like Evite to send digital invitations.
To ensure the best turnout, send out invitations about a month before the block party.
Plan the Food and Drinks
The easiest option for food and drinks is to ask each neighbor or household to bring a dish and some drinks. Then your organizing committee just needs to arrange for the equipment and supplies.
You’ll need tubs with ice for drinks, and you may need equipment like barbeques and grills. Plan for lots of supplies like plates, napkins, utensils, and cups!
Decide where you’ll serve food and drinks from. If you’re planning for a large turnout, it’s a good idea to have several serving areas with tables and supplies.
Also remember that many cities have laws prohibiting alcohol in public space. So if you decide to serve alchohol, respect the law and serve it on private property.
Consider some activities for your block party. Choose simple team/group games like sack races, relays, or water balloon tosses. Games are great for getting people involved in the early stages of a block party and for breaking the ice. But be sure to also leave plenty of time for people to relax and talk.
If any of your neighbors have special talents, like being a musician, ask them to perform or contribute their talent during part of the party. If there are lots of kids who live on your block, organize a kids talent show or parade.
If you plan to have rides or a carnival, or to raise money by selling merchandise and/or services, or charge admission, you’ll need additional permits, which you can get by contacting the Department of Licenses & Inspections at (215) 686-2489.
Photo used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user Will Vanlue.
Plan the Logistics
Plan the supporting equipment and logistics. What additional equipment do you need? Who will bring it? When does it need to be in place?
If it’s hot, gather some sunshades or umbrellas and place these around the block to provide shade. Also organize tables and chairs for people to sit and relax. Arrange for plenty of trash and recycling bins placed around the block.
Think about music for your block party. You can ask neighbors to contribute to a playlist, or have everyone create their own playlist, and play them on portable speakers. Or even ask each house to play their own music.
In Philadelphia you won’t be able to barricade your street—emergency vehicles still need to get through and residents still need to be able to get in and out. But you can use yellow “caution” tape to tape off the entrance to your street.You can get this sort of tape at your local hardware store.
Come up with a plan for bathroom use, and make sure everyone knows what it is. Many block parties deal with this by deciding that each household will use its own bathroom.
Provide nametags and ask people to wear them so they can get to know all their neighbors.
Does your block party have a theme, for instance, the 4th of July? Then decorate your block!
You can add banners or balloons to houses and buildings, as well as street trees and lampposts. If the block party goes into the evening after dusk, consider twinkling lights in the trees.
Decide on a Clean-up Plan
Develop a clean-up plan in advance. In Philadelphia, your block party must end by 8:30pm. So plan to clean up any decorations you put up by then, as well as any trash the party created.
Be sure to separate the recyclable materials into their own containers. The easiest way to handle trash and recyclables is to ask each neighbor or household to take some of the trash home and place it with their own trash for the next regularly scheduled pickup.
If you’re having a large block party, you can arrange for a special trash pickup by calling the Streets Department at (215) 537-2130. There’s a $50 fee for a special pickup, and you need to request it at least five days prior to your event.
Have Fun at Your Block Party
Have fun at this event you planned with your neighbors. Make new friends and make future plans to get together again!