How to Plan and Throw a Block Party
Neighborhood block parties are a blast to attend. You get to mingle with your neighbors, build friendships, discuss the health of the community, talk about how the kids are doing in school, etc. But organizing one can be a tremendous responsibility.
Deciding on a theme and organizing a neighborhood block party can be a great experience with the right knowledge, timeline, and checklists. The result will undoubtedly justify the effort you are about to embrace.
In this article, Clash Graphics put together an easy to follow checklist and sequence of events, along with some helpful tips to help you throw an unforgettable neighborhood block party.
Block Party Theme, Organization, and Permit Application
As with any event, preparation and marketing are the essential factors in its success or failure. The further in advance you can start this process, the better the block party will be.
Ideally, having the permit in hand 60 days before the event will allow ample time for any necessary or surprise adjustments to be made.
The following 9 steps, timeline, and checklist will help you keep things flowing smoothly throughout the permit process and block party.
Step 1 - The Reason for the Block Party - Defining what the block party is for “or the theme” is the most crucial detail of all that is to follow. Without a definition, you will be hard pressed to gain support from community groups and potential event sponsors.
Step 2 - Form an Event Committee - While this may sound too formal, the formation of a committee will facilitate the organizing process. It’s much easier to multi-task a committee than it is an individual. Your committee should include the following:
- Chairman (Event Coordinator) - Responsible for the overall event and task assignments. One of the primary duties of a Committee Chairman is to secure sponsorships, grants, and donations for the event.
- Vice Chairman - Assists the Chairman in setting and meeting fundraising goals, securing permits, organizing a marketing strategy, and when the chairman cannot be present, assumes leadership of the committee and event.
- Treasurer - Establishes an accounting method or opens an account in the name of the block party to cover the costs of the event, and to receive funds, grants, and donations.
- Community Liaison - Attends community group meetings, communicates with the city and municipal officials, and law enforcement to garner support for the event.
- Activity Coordinator - Defines the type of activities, events, contests, and games that will be present at the block party. This position is also responsible for the coordination of food and beverage being distributed at the event.
- Security Coordinator - Assumes responsibility for assembling or assigning security details to keep your venue safe and how they will communicate, react, and respond to situations throughout the event.
Step 3 - Choosing the Date - Look at the calendar and narrow your options to 2 or 3 viable dates for the event. Try to choose a date that doesn’t conflict with other nearby events or city celebrations (This may affect whether or not a permit is approved).
The date(s) you decide upon should be a minimum of 60 to 90 days ahead of the event for permit approval and event structuring.
"No rain please!" While there is no way to make an absolute prediction of the weather, you can visit intellicast.org/Local/ to find your location and click "historic averages" which will give you an idea of the chances of bad weather for that date. Once you and your committee have agreed on a final date, move on to number four.
Step 4 - Acquire an application for a block party, community event, or street use permit (the name of the permit may vary). Depending on the city or municipality, these applications and subsequent permits may be issued by:
- Office of Special Events
- Department of Transportation
- Traffic Engineering Department
- Department of Public Works
- City Engineering Division
- Police Department
To find out which department in your city issues this permit, reach out to your City Hall, or police department.
Depending on the expected attendance, a special event permit may be required. Block parties are typically limited to 300 attendees at any given time. This should be determined when requesting the permit application.
It is essential that all questions, requirements, and details of your application be filled out clearly and accurately. Some of the following items are sure to be among the required documentation for your permit application.
Step 5 - Make a detailed map of the venue which designates the following:
- Location of fire hydrants
- Emergency vehicle access
- Train tracks
- Highway on-ramps and off-ramps
- Where street barriers will be
- Where porta-potties will be
- Where vendor or activity tents and structures will be located.
Step 6 - Petition the neighbors, not only should each home within the venue be identified on the map by its street number, the property owner or tenant of each property should approve of the event by signature.
Step 7 - Create a basic itinerary for the block party including when the street(s) will be closed, any major planned events, when the teardown and cleanup will occur, and when the street(s) will be reopened for traffic.
Step 8 - Submit the Application and fee at least 30 to 60 days prior to the event. Once the city or municipality approves the event, be prepared to present the following:
- Payment of any special events fees applicable to your event.
- Proof of liability insurance coverage and endorsement from the responsible party or organization for the event, as required by the city or municipality.
- Proof of coordination with Traffic Engineering or the Sheriff's Department for traffic control, if applicable. Additional costs may be incurred to hire Sheriff’s or city staff to monitor traffic.
Block Party Marketing and Notifications
Step 9 - Begin marketing your block party once your permit is issued. Now that the date of the event and the venue are confirmed, the following will help you notify the neighborhood and properly market the event.
- Parking restriction notification (in most cases) must be visibly posted one week prior to the event throughout the area of the venue (the timeframe for this posting and a template for it should be included with your permit - if not, ask for it). Be prepared to have a few vehicles towed on the morning of the event.
- By this time, you and your committee should have settled on a logo and theme for the event. These should be used with the date, time, sponsor logo(s), and event schedule to produce flyers that will be distributed throughout the community.
- Posters and banners for the venue with the event logo, location, date, and sponsor logos can be produced and distributed to local merchants and hung along the event venue.
- Custom raffle tickets can be produced for the event (if you intend on having prize giveaways)
- Have trophies and certificates made for any contests that will occur during the block party.
- Sponsor recognition posters can be produced to let the community know who made the event possible.
- One of the last flyers that can be produced is a "fun" map of the venue showing the locations of booths, first aid, food, recreation, etc.
Note: The more professional custom printing you can have done for the event, the more credibility you and your committee will have when producing the next event. Partner with a professional and well reviewed printer like clashgraphics.com.
Vendors, Contributors, and Services for Your Event
In most municipalities, all amenities and activities within a block party venue must be free of charge to the attending public.
Food and Beverage Distribution - Whether it be a potluck (neighbors providing food) or catered, make sure that all food handling and temperature regulations are adhered to at all times. You may need to acquire the proper holding equipment for either hot or cold food items. Depending on your municipality, a permit may be required.
Alcohol - The distribution and consumption of alcohol during block party and other events is usually heavily regulated (if not prohibited) and may require a separate set of permits and requirements.
Booths - Allow local businesses, community groups, church groups, sponsors, and vendors to set up booths in designated areas within the venue. They can talk about what they do, hand out their swag, and will certainly add an element of diversity to your block party.
Waste Disposal - Your local waste disposal company may be willing to provide and pick up waste and recycle bins for the venue.
Bounce or Jump Houses - Fun for the kids is always a must. Be aware that the vendor for the bounce or jump house must provide proof of an independent insurance policy - regulated by the event permit (the company you contract with should be aware of this requirement).
Porta-Potty Rental - Delivery and pick up of porta-potties should be arranged at least one week in advance of the event, arriving the day or morning prior to the start of the event and removed immediately after the event comes to an end.
Roadblocks and Barriers - Your local transit authority may be willing to lease, rent, or loan roadblocks and barriers to the event. Working with them will all but ensure compliance with the guidelines in the event permit.
Entertainment - Local bands and talent may be eager to come out and perform (announcing them in your promotional material is another way to generate interest in the event). Putting on a talent show may bring some of your neighbors' skills to light as well.
Sound and Stage - Consider building or renting a stage for your venue. This provides a central focus point and gives your entertainment a place to perform. Professional sound equipment can be easily rented through a sound equipment rental company or provided by a local radio station that may be interested in hosting or sponsoring your event.
Security - Whether volunteer or paid, the safety of your event needs to be handled professionally. Your security coordinator should have extensive knowledge and background in crowd control and event security.
Your local police should have a presence at your venue as well. Coordinate with their liaison in advance to have an occasional patrol do a walk through and meet & greet. This is great for everyone.
Volunteers - Volunteers in community events are priceless and should be recognized for their efforts. From distributing flyers to handing out water, and picking up trash, your volunteers are just as responsible for the success of your block party.
First-Aid - The hope is that you will never need to call a paramedic or use a first-aid kit. But the reality is that you will likely need to. Many companies specialize in first-aid for events, and your local fire department may be willing to volunteer a paramedic or two.
Photography and Video - Contract with or recruit a photographer to record performances and take pictures of people and activities. These can all be used to create a visual record or report of the block party you can easily distribute in the days, weeks, and months following the event.
Ending A Successful Block Party
The above checklist, tips, and timeline will help you throw a successful neighborhood block party while reducing the number of unexpected occurrences and potential problems. Once the party has ended, be sure to send or hand deliver thank you cards to your sponsors, vendors, volunteers, and staff.
In this article, you learned how to form a committee, plan a block party, apply for and acquire an event permit, and successfully market a neighborhood block party to your community.
By establishing and following a timeline for your event, you will benefit from not having to rush through any of the preparations, miss any important deadlines, and be able to enjoy yourself during the block party you've masterfully orchestrated.
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