In many neighborhoods around the country, people don’t know their neighbors or are new and looking for ways to meet them. I don’t think anyone would disagree that knowing your neighbors is a good thing, especially if you have kids or for everyone’s general safety. In our hustle and bustle world, it’s getting harder to get to know your neighbors with all the crazy work schedules and children’s extra curicular activities, not to mention both spouses working. Where is the time to meet anyone? What is the solution? Halloween, of course!
Sixty-three percent of Americans celebrate Halloween either by having a party or decorating their yards. So Halloween is a great party starter on its own. Think about all the interesting activities that come to mind instantly and know that this is one holiday where adults and kids both enjoy hanging out together. How about organizing a Halloween Block Party where everyone can dress up, get to know each other as they play wild, interesting games together, and form a lasting bond that feels more like a team rather than just block-mates? Let’s get started!
Planning Your Block Party – You Can’t Do it All!
Planning is going to be the make it or break it for the success of the block party, so let’s get organized before you print up the first flier. Make no mistake – a lot needs to be done, but it’s like any other gathering you’ve done – only much bigger. One thing you’ll have to come to grips with what not to do. The most important thing you as the organizer or host needs to remember, even if you have to write it on the back of you hand, is – DELEGATE. You must agree to delegate most of the work of the party and understand that one person simply can’t or shouldn’t do everything, or you might as well sit down and skip the event. If you’re a control type person, get a grip on yourself because it’ll be really tempting to try to do it all.
Do not do it all – why? Most planners naturally want to handle every detail and every call rather than turn over some of the control to others. If you don’t think you can delegate, appoint someone else to be in charge of the event and be there to help them. It’ll save you several massive headaches, money, and nerves because you’ll ruin all your good work if you try to do it all. You might also get resentful at a later date and be frazzled when the evening comes. I’ve seen too many people act like a moth to the control flame and end up mad at the very people they wanted to entertain in the beginning. Besides, everyone on the block needs to have a stake in the success of the event and that can’t happen unless you encourage them to be a viable member of the team and make a contribution. With that said, I sincerely hope you look deeply into yourself before we proceed, but proceed we must. Heed my warnings and don’t burn in the control flame!
Committees For All Areas
I suggest you write a list of every committee need you can think of and what you expect them to carry out as a basic outline for them to use. Keep in mind that these might change as you discuss them as a group. Here are some of the ones I’ve used in the past, and they’ve worked well for me:
Public Relations Committee: A person/group to make and send out the invitations, put up fliers, and answer basic questions.
Decoration Committee will be in charge of changing the look of your street. after all, it’s Halloween! I suggest you don’t use any open flames unless you have a team of adults that can stay with them. They should also be in charge of taking down all the decorations and returning any borrowed items or toss what needs to be tossed at the time you all agree on.
Activities Coordinator will come up with all group activities and hire any entertainment (like groups, magicians or bands), draw up a list of games for the little ones to play, and staff people to run them.
Permits and Regulation Committee will apply for street closing permits and check to see what local city requirements are for other things you’re considering doing at such an event. For example, bon fires, fireworks, and any other thing that might be a legal sticky point. Make sure this commitee and the decoration committee work together to see what is allowed and what is not.
Food and Handling Committee will decide to either cook for everyone and charge a flat fee or to ask that main dishes be brought. They will also be in charge of all other food items, such as sodas, chips, or side dishes to be purchased by a general food fund. They should also decide where, how to set up, and be responsible for getting whatever equipment they need: ice, coolers, grills, etc.
Entertainment Fund – decide if you want everyone to pay a small flat rate decided by the organizing group, and be responsible for paying for any entertainment hired, rented or otherwise used for the event.
Social Director – will be responsible for things like making sure to set in place how many guests each household can invite and what the rules will be for their guests, keeping an eye on kids that are being disruptive. Is there going to be alcoholic beverages? If there are, how will it be handled so no one gets into trouble?
Set up/Tear Down Crew that will be responsible for setting up the event and taking down any dunk tanks or game courses, loading trailers or other items used for the event, and for returning borrowed or rented items.
General Clean Up Crew (for after the event) This includes picking up all trash, balloon bits, wiping down tables, folding up chairs, and returning the street to the way it was before the block party. This takes place the same day as the event.
Party On While Planning Your Block Party!
Your first order of business is to set a date for everyone to gather and discuss organizing the block party. I suggest you host it at your own house or at a nearby local park and use the committee chart you drew up earlier to assign jobs to folks. Remember to make the planning fun with lots of decorations, fun music, snacks, and do your best to build a team from all attendees in a fun but directed way.
It’s kind of like hosting a party to discuss, well, having a party! Talk to everyone! Ask questions about large items you think the party might need and see if they have a valuable resource they might be able to offer for the event, or if they know anyone who can donate a service or a product. Before the night is over, make sure you’ve set a date, set up committees, and have key people in place with all their contact information.
Once you have all your committees filled, make a date to get back to each other and keep tabs on how each committee is doing, or if one group needs help.
Kindness to Your Neighbors
This is one area that is rarely tackled, but I feel it’s necessary to address – be open minded! You know the old adage “don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but a lot of people don’t practice this as much as they think. Invite everyone and keep an open mind when they come. We once had a biker-looking guy move in on our street, and frankly, he looked like he could eat nails for breakfast. A lot of our neighbors didn’t even say hello. One day he walked by my house as I did yard work, and I said hello. He was startled and said that I really was the first person to greet him. I ended up inviting him into the yard to sit while we drank a soda. I was astounded to find this scraggily beaded man with his patch-covered jacket was a really nice guy and a painter. He was definitely a good addition to the neighborhood. Had it not been for me, he would’ve moved, and we would have missed a friendship that will last the ages. Be the one to make the first step and take the time to get to know someone before you think you know him.
Halloween Activity Suggestions
There are any number of great activities you and your street can do in addition to the traditional costume contest. Here is a short list of suggestions to get you started thinking:
Kid Talent Contest: Put this in your invitation and fliers that there’ll be a Kids’ Talent Contest. Set an age limit or be surprised by the older kids who will enjoy competing, too. Have goofy prizes for any category you have.
Stand-Up Comic Contest: Let it be known before the block party that there is going to be a family-friendly Stand-up Comic Contest so they can prepare their routines. Stress what you believe as clean is and yank anyone off that goes blue during his or her time on stage. Give out three kinds of canned corn for prizes and decorate the can to look like certain comedians like Whoopie Goldburg, Carrot, Top or Carlos Mencia!
Pet Show or Pet Talent Show: Dress the pets up and decide who’s the cutest, the most evil, and the most original. You can judge the pets on their talents, too, from licking their person’s face to walking on their hind legs. Just keep the categories loose and fun! But remember- never allow anything that harms or makes the animal uncomfortable!
Street Bowling: Get an old bowling ball and set up half-filled two-liter bottles like bowling pins and try to knock the pins down. This is a great game to play and to watch as each person takes his turn, especially if you make up some crazy rules to use. Just use anything to make it more interesting and to keep the real bowlers from killing the rest of us. You may have to make up a drawing system for teams or set up more than one lane but please realize that the ball is going to get chipped and dinged so don’t use a good one!
Halloween-Themed Relay Races: You can put ping-pong eyeballs on spoons, fill the skull (with spoons of candy bones), and many other relay races. Kids and adults love to do relay races, and this would be a great family event much like the old potato sack races are.
Scavenger Hunt: This will be a lot of fun, but it does take a lot of planning to pull off. Some will want to do the running around to solve the clues while others will love to be in possession of the much desired items or give clues for the next area to search. Get a good group of creative people together and you’ll be amazed at all the unusual and funny clues you can come up with that will be special to your street or town.
I could go on, but you get the idea – there are so many fun and inexpensive activities out there waiting for you to think them up. If you have a larger budget to work with, you could go to a rental company and rent a bounce house or other games to go along with the activities I mentioned previously.
Well, there you have it! I hope this article will get you motivated to hold the first of many block parties, and I hope your event is a thrilling success. Life is too short to not have fun, make memories, and have a good support system around you and your family every day of the year!