How to Throw a Block Party
Have you ever referred to your neighbor as “the one who walks by with the yellow labrador retriever”?
Or maybe, if you are in my neighborhood, “the house with the lions”. Yes, there are lion statues in the Holly neighborhood and they are beloved by all.
If you don’t know your neighbor’s names, maybe it is time to introduce yourself.
There are lots of reasons to get to know your neighbors. Safety and crime prevention are at the top of the list. A key reason the Block Watch Program is effective is because when you know your neighbors, it is easier to identify suspicious activity and report it. When there is an uptick in car prowls or mailbox break ins, neighbors will be more likely to share that information if they know you.
When you head out on vacation, a neighbor can take your garbage to the curb or water your garden for you. You can also offload an armful of lettuce and berries that will go bad when you are away.
There is always a cup of sugar to borrow or maybe a snow shovel. Babysitting help anyone?
You don’t need to be best friends with your neighbors, but there is something to be said about a greater sense of community you feel when you know your neighbors and feel part of the neighborhood.
One way to get to know your neighbors is to throw a neighborhood block party. I am not “party people”, but I threw my first one three years ago. I’d been in my house for 15 years, so it was about time to learn my neighbors’ names.
Throwing the block party was surprisingly easy. Here’s what you need to do:
Set a date and time with one or two of your neighbors. This way if no one else shows, it won’t be just you, but I think you will be surprised by how many people show up.
Pick a front yard or driveway to have the party. You can request to have your street blocked off in the City of Everett, but you have to submit your request at least 30 days in advance. Review the Neighborhood Block Party Permit Requirements and fill out the Permit Application. You will need to submit a map of the area. Take a screenshot of Google Maps and mark up the roads you want to have closed.
Get recyclable paper goods and utensils.
Make a flyer to hand out. You can handwrite one or use a tool like Canva to make it look sharp. Hand the invitations out in person if possible because neighbors will be more likely to come if personally invited.
Include your email or phone number on the flyer and ask that neighbors bring: tables, chairs, maybe a canopy, a couple of barbecues, some food or drinks to share. You may find, like I did, that neighbors will jump at the chance to contribute.
On the day of the event, make sure to use your compost, recycling and garbage bins for clean up.
Some other things to consider are: asking someone to greet guests as they arrive and have someone take photos. You may want to collect names and phone numbers to create an emergency contact list or for someone to call if you need a cup of sugar. Compiling contact information is a step to starting a Block Watch and you may even want to discuss mapping your neighborhood which is a program to help a neighborhood be prepared for emergencies—such as an earthquake.
As we were cleaning up from my first block party three years ago, there was a sense of joy and camaraderie and the kids were excited to be able to run around in the street without worrying about cars. Connections were made and we finally knew the names of our neighbors. One neighbor suggested that we do another block party, which I intended to do the following summer, but she wanted another one before that summer was over.
I have seen the benefits of increased safety and crime prevention. Shortly after the party I saw someone looking in an open window at a neighbor’s house so I called the police and then I was able to call my neighbor to let him know the situation. He was home at the time and very appreciative that I was looking out for him. Neighbors have continued to network via text message when we see suspicious activity in the neighborhood or a lost dog running around.
We are preparing for our third annual block party next week. My neighbor, who is more of a “party person” than I am, has offered to help coordinate a bike decorating contest for the kids, a bike parade, water balloon fights and to host a dessert contest. We’ve got some new neighbors on the block and I look forward to getting to know them better and to see the sense of community on our block continue to grow.
Linda War Bonnet represents south Everett on the Live in Everett Team. When she isn’t working, she is running the Westmont-Holly Neighborhood Association or teaching art to fourth graders. You might spot her walking her dog in the Holly neighborhood.