An old-fashioned block party can be one of the true delights of
summer. Getting the neighbors out and mingling is not only loads of
fun, but it helps keep your neighborhood safe by providing a sense
of community and togetherness.
To really get people involved and mingling, liven up your party
and think outside the traditional hot dogs and water balloons.
Play with a theme. Food, decorations, games,
even clothing, can all revolve around a theme. Fourth of July is an
easy one. But Christmas in July is fun, too. Break out those
twinkle lights and lawn decorations. Or consider hosting a rib fest
where everyone cooks, eats and judges a slab of ribs. Joanne
Pygon's block in Elmhurst chose an Olympic theme one year. "Each
household chose a country, then made a flag, did a game and had
some food from that country. It was a really great learning
experience for the kids and they had fun playing some new
Silly activities lighten the mood. Volleyball
and badminton are great for the sporty types but fun and funny
activities really bring people together. Consider games with
unlikely pairings: a parent and child relay race or grown-ups
careening down the block on tricycles. A contest such as the limbo
or hula hoop allows spectators and players to get involved. Nancy
Sika of Elmhurst set up a pie-eating contest by spraying whipped
cream into a pie pan. People held their hands behind their backs,
leaned forward and dug in. Kids love watching their parents do it
almost as much as they enjoy doing it.
Keep the area small. The block may be long, but
don't use all of it. Set up a section for food, eating and
registration. Have only a few, long tables to encourage people to
eat with other families. Stage a registration area with name tags
and house numbers. As people pick up their name tags, have them
write down their e-mail addresses. Decorate the area with balloons
and festive tablecloths, especially if you have a theme. Use the
rest of the block for games, crafts and bike riding.
Mix and mingle with a jingling beat. Have a few
pre-planned, traditional games to break the ice. Consider a
Neighborhood Trivia Contest (Who has gone skydiving? Who has lived
in more than three states?) Collect a fact from each adult in
advance. Or plan a group photo and include a funny face shot.
E-mail it to everyone later. Twenty questions is always classic:
Simply pin the name of someone famous on a person's back; they get
20 yes or no questions to determine who they are. Don't get too
unusual or shocking in the games, the idea is just to get people
mingling and talking.
Laura Amann is a freelance writer and the mother of four living in Elmhurst.
See more of Laura's stories here.
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