Block parties are a wonderful way to connect with your neighbours this summer. Each year we host a gathering on the street in front of our home, it’s a natural intersection with lots of space for kids to play games, to set up a BBQ and tents, and to inflate a bouncy castle. Last year we even showed a movie on a garage door and made popcorn well into the night. The local fire department often makes a visit to let kids crawl around on their fire engines, and dozens of people make a day of it. We stay out late because we like each other, we tell stories, laugh, turn up the music, and bring out more food. We’ve made some great memories on our street.
It was not always this easy. I remember my first year organizing the block party. I went door to door inviting our neighbours for our ‘first ever’ block party. Some people barely cracked open their doors when I knocked. Was I selling something? Was I asking for donations? There was suspicion because we didn’t know each other. Block parties are not made in a year, but over time.
Today when we go door to door and pass out invitations, the story is different. I’m welcomed in, our kids know each other, we tell stories and catch up, and people offer to bring food or help organize. It’s different because we’ve built trust and have come to see that our neighbourhood is better because we decide to love it and participate in it.
The City of Chestermere makes it easy to host a block party. Simply visit chestermere.ca/585/Block-Parties to sign up. There you will find a how-to guide, some important information, and contacts in case you have questions. Whether you have helped make block parties happen for years, or would like to start one this summer, here are a few tips to help make your block party thrive:
• Set a date that makes sense. Not everyone will be around, but ask a few people what dates work for them.
• Figure out who to invite. Our neighbourhood is really about 50 homes, but we often invite further out to include several other streets. The more the merrier. Today other streets in our area are starting block parties of their own.
• Send out fun invitations. Put a map on the invite and contact information, encourage people to put the date in their calendars.
• Make your party welcoming to adults and kids. Last year several families brought out their nice deck furniture and we made our street into a welcoming living room. People stayed around for hours while kids played and adults visited.
• Plan to clean up. Often our block party isn’t over until late, but most people stay to help put things away. People will be happy to pitch in if they know their help is welcomed and appreciated.
• Host a planning meeting. Every year a few of us simply meet on our deck to work out the details, it always goes off with ease, but a little planning can go a long way.
However you plan your block party, remember that the goal is community, for sake of community. When you love your place, you may find more to love than you know. Happy block party planning!