How to Organize a Great Block Party


Yesterday I posted about how neighbors in Cupertino are strengthening their neighborhoods through throwing annual block parties. Today I’ve got a list of ideas on how to organize a great block party in your own neighborhood.

Live in an apartment building or condominium complex? Don’t let that stop you from getting neighbors together. A common area or local park can be used to gather people together with food and activities to facilitate conversations and connections.

Cottonwood Drive resident and professional party planner Lianne Hatcher, who helped organize this year’s 50s themed block party for her neighborhood, said it’s important to have one person play the role of block leader, who can then organize interested neighbors who want to be on the planning committee.

Plan the party one to two months in advance, and make sure the party date does not conflict with major events, like graduations or holidays where people will likely be traveling.

Some people I spoke to about time suggested late summer or even early fall as a good time, since school is back in session and people are less likely to be taking vacations. As for time of day, late afternoon to early evening were suggested as good possibilities.

The cities of Cupertino and Palo Alto have online planning documents to help make any block party is a success. Here are some of their tips:

  • Gather together a few neighbors to split duties. You might then go door-to-door and poll neighbors when would be a good date.
  • If closing down a street, check with your city several weeks or more in advance, many cities require at least 30 days notice, and you may have to gather signatures from affected homeowners.
  • Decide if the party is for neighbors only, or if people can bring extended family and friends.
  • Decide if you want to be casual, or more organized. A casual party might only include potluck appetizers and/or desserts, a more organized party could include a visit from fire or law enforcement officials, city council members, or others. Other activities could include games for kids, ice breaker games for adults, crafts, service projects, or entertainment. Be aware of your city’s rules for amplification, and other regulations.
  • Create a flyer and distribute it to the neighbors at least a month in advance.
  • Send reminder emails, if possible.
  • Have name tags on hand the day of the event.
  • Have a sign-in sheet to collect names, addresses, etc.
  • Provide trash bags and recycle bins; encourage everyone to help with clean-up.

Another good resource for block party planning is the book Block Parties and Poker Nights; Recipes and Ideas for Getting and Staying Connected With Your Neighbors by Peggy Allen.

Cupertino’s Block Party Tip Sheet: Recipe_Block_Party

Link to Palo Alto Block Party Guide – includes great section on how to invite “New Americans”, lots of good activity ideas



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