Whether you live on a quiet cul-de-sac or a busy street, it's important to get to know your neighbors to build a sense of community. Hanging out with neighborhood friends is also a wonderfully convenient pasttime - no car, travel or reservations required! Take advantage of the long days and warm weather and organize an old-fashioned block party, a neighborhood tag sale, a collaborative potluck party or an outdoor game night. Choose one or two neighbors to help plan and execute all the activities and consider making your neighborhood event an annual occurance.
The first and most important thing to do is to send invitations with all the relevant details. Browse the wide variety of fun digital invitations Punchbowl has to offer and get your neighborhood event started!
Old-Fashioned Block Party: The idea of a block party conjures images of impromptu hopscotch, lawn chairs abstractly arranged on patches of pavement and the overwhelming smell of charcoal and barbecuing meat. It's a nostalgic and very traditional way to celebrate time together and the importance of community - something most families are craving these days. Organizing a neighborhood get-together is a large undertaking, so check out our tips below to throw a successful bash.
Where to Start? Once the invitations have been sent, ask neighbors to volunteer their yards, lawnchairs, folding tables and culinary skills. Pick a handful of homes to serve as "stations" for food, games, drinks and congregating. An important thing to remember is to contact your local police station to inquire about obtaining a permit to close down your street for the length of the party. On the day of the party, put up sawhorses or traffic cones at each end of the street so you have the entire road for yourselves.
Food! Chances are that the neighborhood is made up of very different people with very different tastes. The best thing to do is to keep the food and drink offerings simple and uncomplicated. Set up a variety of "bars" at one house (preferably in the middle of all the action) like a burger bar, a salad bar and a dessert bar. Ask a number of the older kids to run a lemonade stand (at 5 cents a glass, they'll make a killing!) and set up an adult beverage bar on someone's front porch. Have all the neighbors pitch in on the food and drink bill and establish who's in charge of what to avoid confusion.
Try some fun burger bar fixings to spice things up!
Spicy Mayonnaise: Mix one large garlic clove (crushed) with 1/2 tsp. of coarse, ground salt, 3 tsp. of chili powder and 1/2 cup mayonnaise.
Grilled Onions and Peppers: Slice two large green peppers and onions and place on a large piece of aluminum foil. Spray with non-stick spray and dust with salt and pepper. Fold the foil up around the veggies and place on the grill for 15-20 minutes.
"Fancy" Cheeses: Think outside the American and Cheddar "box" and try offering a variety of uncommon cheeses for people to try like Brie, Havarti, Feta, Blue Cheese, Boursin or Roquefort.
Activities: If there's a basketball hoop, sidewalk chalk and tasty cocktails for the adults, you'll probably be covered in terms of activites at the block party. It doesn't hurt, however, to set up a few organized games to ensure everyone is entertained. Try a few of our suggestions which are good for any age:
Water Balloon Toss: Easy and always sure to get some laughs, fill LOTS of balloons with water and line up two rows of participants with about four feet in between them. If they can throw the balloon to their partner without breaking it, have them move a little further away and so on.
Charades: Pre-make character or topic cards and divide people up into teams of two each. Start a timer for 60 seconds and have one partner act out what they have on their card. It's as easy as that!
Marco Polo: Pool or no pool, this classic game is especially fun when the sun starts to set. Choose one player to be blindfolded, establish a perimeter for the game and GO!
Last but not least, supply everyone with bug spray, have a First Aid kit on hand and keep the noise to a dull roar in case there are neighbors who aren't in the mood to party.
Neighborhood Tag Sale: An organized tag sale among neighbors is a perfect way for everyone involved to make a little extra money AND spend time together. Establish a list of families that would like to participate and settle on a date that works for the majority (including a rain date!). Since a tag sale is a lot of work, suggest that after it's over, everyone chip in some money to order pizza and have a very casual "dinner" party to relax and reflect on the day.
Where to Start? Once all the participants are set, ask a few families to volunteer to set up goods in their driveway or yard so one person isn't stuck with the whole lot. Request that each family estimate about how much they will have for sale and ask that they categorize their goods into one of four categories for their estimate: clothing, books/toys, furniture/large objects and miscellaneous. Based on that information, arrange for there to be adequate tables, shelves and clothing racks for all the items. Divide the families up into groups and let them know ahead of time where they will be displaying (ask that they commit to staying the entire time so other neighbors aren't left in the lurch).
Spread the Word: It's not enough to just hold a tag sale - you have to spread the word! Place an ad in the local paper, put a listing on Craigslist and staple fliers all over town. It's a good idea to get neighbors together a week or so in advance to organize all the publicity and to distribute the fliers - make it a fun event and grab ice cream or drinks together after you're done!
What Else? Ask all the families to label and price all of their items prior to the sale and that they arrive for set up at least one hour before the sale starts (many hard-core garage sale enthusiasts will show up early and you'll want to be prepared!). Require that all participants bring the following items:
Plastic or paper bags for customers
Marker to fix, add or change a price
$50 in small bills and change
Lawn chairs to sit in while customers browse
An envelope for money
Patience and a sense of humor (while many people think their "stuff" is priceless, most bargain-hunters will want just that, a bargain).
Yummy Stuff: Give the neighborhood kids a chance to make some money too by setting up a drink and snack stand for customers and participating neighbors. Suggest that they offer bottled water, soda, lemonade, chips, homemade baked goods, etc.
More Tips for a Successful Tag Sale:
Start and End Early - Setting and cleaning up takes a while, so start early when it's cool outside and end early enough to still have time for dinner and a little night-time relaxation.
Do Some Research - See if there are any other neighborhood tag sales scheduled in your town and plan yours the same day. Garage sale hunters love to kill two birds with one stone!
Donate Earnings - Consider arranging the tag sale around a cause that is close to you and your neighbor's hearts. Donate all or a portion of the earnings to the cause and do some good!
Think Like a Retailer - The goal of a tag sale is to get rid of everything, which means you'll have to give shoppers a bargain. Consider doing a two-for-one bin, a discount if someone spends a certain amount and reduce prices an hour before the sale ends.
Potluck Party: The pros of throwing a neighborhood potluck party are endless - it's cheap, it's diverse, there's very little preparation, and on and on! Find a volunteer to host the party, send out digital invitations with Punchbowl and start planning!
Where to Start? Once the RSVPs start rolling in, you'll get a better idea of how much planning will be involved. Ask each guest to bring one dish (appetizer, main dish, dessert) and a drink (beer, wine, lemonade, etc.) and make sure they let you know ahead of time. Make a list of condiments needed and stock up on plastic utencils, plates and paper napkins. Evaluate the space and it's on to the second step - decorating!
Decorations: A potluck can be thrown just about anywhere and the decorations don't have to be complicated or time-consuming. Simply pick a color scheme and a theme (if you wish) and off you go! Some fun themes include:
Nautical Seaside Theme - Use a blue and white color scheme, seashells/starfish/sea glass, coral arrangements and knotted rope to create a beachy escape.
Circus or Carnival Theme - Decorate with red and white stripes, bails of hay, colored lights and lots of balloons.
Americana - Make everything red, white and blue, use bandanas for napkins, hang American flags for decor and create large-scale beautiful white flower and sparkler arrangements.
Garden Party - Hang delicate white lights, cover tables with lacey tablecloths and arrange wildflowers in watering cans for centerpieces.
Food Ideas: Have the host do the main course (BBQ on the grill, pasta, pizza,etc.) and suggest other dishes to guests to get the ball rolling. Wet your appetite with these yummy sides and cocktail recipes:
Chopped Cobb Salad:
1 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package cooked bacon, chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (grilled and seasoned with salt and pepper)
3 heads of romaine lettuce, cleaned and chopped
2 large tomatoes, pitted and chopped
2 ripe avocados, pitted, skinned and chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
Mix 1/2 cup cheese, oil, vinegar and some salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth for dressing. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss with dressing. Serve right away with fresh bread.
Artichoke Pasta Salad:
1 box bow tie or penne pasta, cooked and cooled
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp. chopped basil
1 tbsp. chopped oregano
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 cup marinated artichokes, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl and toss. Serve chilled.
Authentic Cuban Raspberry Mojito:
2 ounces white Rum
1 tsp. powdered sugar
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
4 mint leaves
2 ounces club soda
Put mint, raspberries and lime juice in the bottom of a tall, thin glass. Add sugar and muddle the mixture. Add crushed ice, add Rum and club soda and stir. Serve immediately.
Ask that everyone pitch in when it's time to clean up so the host isn't stuck with all the dirty work, plus it'll go faster with more hands. End the night with dessert or set up an ice cream bar with all the fixings.
Outdoor Game Night: A neighborhood game night doesn't have to be arranged way in advance, just ask neighbors to meet at a host's house and each bring a game that can be played outdoors (board games count too!). Schedule the event after dinnertime and just serve appetizers, a casual drink bar and some desserts. Follow the easy steps below for a fun-filled night with neighbors of all ages!
Set up a variety of card, plastic and picnic tables for food, drinks and board games.
Set up a variety of outdoor games like badminton, volleyball, horseshoes, a beanbag toss and blindfolds for hide-and-seek.
Arrange a few snacks and some beverages on a centrally-located table.
Play some fun music in the background and get the party started!
More fun ideas:
Rent an ice cream or food truck for the event.
Cut vegetables into thin strips, squirt some dressing in the bottom of a clear plastic cup and arrange a single-serve veggie snack in each.
Make single-serve nachos by molding small pieces of tortilla in a cupcake pan and fill with toppings. Bake for 5 minutes at 375 degrees and serve!
Make t-shirts for the event that everyone can wear each year you throw it.
Set up a competition for one of the games and award the winner with something extra special like a gift certificate to the local movie theater.
Make a bonfire and supply all the makings for smores.
Being part of a community is a really special thing - there's nothing better than knowing you can rely on your neighbors for support, extracurricular activites and even a cup of sugar. Have fun with your next-door friends this summer and for years to come!