Helpful Tips for Block Parties
Who oversees Block Parties?
Ideally, your street already has a Block Captain, who can handle notification and request for reimbursement with the HOA. If not, then your group can designate one or two people for this role. It usually is obvious who these people are.
How to start the planning?
The first step is to send the notification form to the HOA, which allows us to keep track of the parties.
How do we get reimbursements?
After the party, the Block Captain or designated contact sends the reimbursement form to the HOA. Remember you must send receipts for reimbursement. Several groups report that they used the anticipated $50 reimbursement from the HOA on more expensive items such as main dishes.
Notice Form ---- Receipts ---- Reimbursement Form
As families have many activities on the weekends, a 3-4 week notice is preferable. Also, it gives enough time to assemble all the items, make a music playlist, buy food, etc.
How to define the party area?
Some of the streets are straight and level, so it is easier to define a block area. Some are long with curves and hills, which is more challenging.
The Vista View block party is a good example because this is long and hilly street that loops through the neighborhood. They defined their area as Vista View from Tallyran to nearby homes on Spicewood Parkway, as well as including the two Petite Cove cul-de-sacs. The actual party area was on the more level area of Vista View near Spicewood Parkway. Inviting people on a busy street, such as Spicewood Parkway, is a good idea, as those residents are less likely to have their own parties because of the street traffic.
Do we block the street to vehicular traffic?
The City of Austin has specific rules for formally blocking traffic - blocking at intersections (not mid-block) and 100% neighbor notification of the closure with 60% approval. Also, there is a $50 fee.
Another option is alerting drivers to a party ahead and asking them to drive slowly. Homemade yard signs with a message of “Block Party Ahead” and warning street cones of children playing help deliver the message.
Remember the postal trucks and delivery vehicles will be coming through.
You will need at least three people to help organize and keep track of the moving parts. A shared Google Doc is a good way to keep all the info in one place and available to everyone.
Designate one person as the keeper of the receipts – everyone who has managed a block party agrees on this point.
Inviting the Neighbors
The personal touch is the key to success, as well as a printed flyer. Divide the homes among the organizers, knock on the doors, and invite them to the party. The flyer is a good reminder of the date and time. Also, it helps people new to the block see the plan for the party and have a name and contact info.
Line up coolers with name of contents along the curb. You may need four or more tables for food.
Pop-up net covers are great for keeping flies off the food. For casseroles, etc., tape a card or use a post-it with the name and ingredients. TIP - There are vinyl table covers with elastic at the corners available online. They do stay flat on the table.
Encourage people (via the flyer) to share what they are bringing ahead of time. Tent canopies are a great way to keep leaves, etc off the food. Also, have some extra tent stakes on hand. Many groups have used portable grills for the main dishes.
Seating and chatting areas
People tend to congregate at the edge of the yards or at the curb. Place extra chairs in groups in this area.
Plan to help children keep busy with a variety of games and activities, such as corn hole, ring toss, sidewalk chalk, photo booth, jump ropes, bubble-wands, small craft projects, puzzles. Some children prefer active games, and others, more quiet activities. Teens may enjoy doing face painting for younger children.
Ask for favorites ahead of time. Focus on upbeat tunes, family friendly lyrics, chart-toppers from different generations, sing-alongs, and specialty dance songs (Chicken Dance, Cotton-Eye Joe, YMCA, etc.) Spotify is a great place to create a song list. The big boom speakers are a turn-off for most adults, and people will move away from them. TIP for Cotten-Eye Joe - most versions are too fast. Find one on YouTube (with family friendly lyrics) and play at 75% speed.
Send pictures (at least three) to the HOA for our gallery of block parties. Also, guests will enjoy them, too. Post them on the neighborhood FB group.
Sign-in, name tags
Encourage the guests to sign in and leave emails. Some block groups have their own email group.
Put out clearly marked trash and recycling bins before the party starts. If people have marked their names on chairs, tables, etc., it is easier to make sure they get home.
Make a bag of items that might be needed on short notice, such as scissors, tape, zip-ties, pens, sticky notes, antiseptic wipes - ointment - bandaids for skinned knees and such.