A summer block party may seem like a throwback to the 1950s, when families lived in the same house for decades, everyone on the street knew everyone else, and neighbors were all friends. But times have changed. Families move often, neighbors often exchange little more than a wave as they pull out of the driveway, and we’re all a little more wary of people we don’t know.
So maybe it’s time to revisit the neighborhood block party. These fun, friendly events are a great way to bring neighbors together, make new friends and build a sense of community on your street. But where to start? Fortunately for us, entertainment and lifestyle guru Mrs. Lilien shares with Mamiverse readers her best tips for how to throw a fun, easy—and sizzling—summer block party.
Mamiverse: What are some block party basics for someone who has never thrown a block party?
Mrs. Lilien: Make it fun, colorful and inviting. Nothing screams come on over like a house that’s bursting with bright décor, refreshments and laughter! No fun block party is complete without a little friendly competition so be sure to incorporate an array of games into your event. I like to include a mix of traditional and new games, from basics like horseshoes to new games like Words with Friends. One idea I love is projecting digital games from an iPad/iPhone onto a mounted white sheet so all guests can get in on the fun. The goal with games it to create a fun and interactive milieu that a variety of guests will enjoy!
Using brightly colored paper décor such as paper lanterns and pennant flags can really get you the most bang for your buck. Setting up multiple stations both inside and outside offering icy beverages and tasty treats is best. This keeps you from running around like a tornado during your soiree. I like using large galvanized buckets filled with ice for drinks and perhaps a bar cart for the hard stuff.
Keeping food easy is also a great idea. My idea of ideal easy food is food on sticks, and one-handed bites; nothing too complicated. Think salad kabobs and pigs in a blanket—your guests will go bonkers for crowd pleasers like these. I recommend setting up shared food and drink stations throughout the event space. Food should also be easy, nothing messy or fussy; only one-handed yum. This allows people to keep moving through the party and engage with other through games and other social activities.
You mustn’t forget the little things such as fun decorative straws and napkins… it’s the little added bits of spark that will leave the biggest of impressions! Have chalkboard paper available and buckets of colored chalk; this is a great way to keep your guests involved in the fun and another way to keep score while gaming.
Read Related: Pimp My Party: Tips for Big Fun on a Small Budget
Mrs. Lilien: With the use of a little sidewalk chalk and a friendly note inviting all into your abode for the fun you’ll have a killer crowd in no time. Festive music and a sign that says “Open House, C’mon in!” are other surefire ways to keep the guests coming. “Eat, Drink, Play” is my motto when it comes to a party and there’s no better way to entice people to your shindig than with great bites, drinks and games. Plus remember, block parties don’t need to be huge; perhaps just invite a few of the neighbors on both sides of you and you’ve instantly got a full house on your hands.
Mamiverse: I want to have a block party, but I don’t have a lot of money to put it together. How can I throw a great block party on a small budget?
Mrs. Lilien: My favorite inexpensive way to spice up a party is to customize party favors, decorations and accoutrement for my guests. Wooden swizzle sticks, chalkboard cup name cards and cardboard coasters are three easy-to-customize party accessories that are a staple at all my soirees. These customizable items won’t break the bank and are also a great way to provide interactive activities for all your guests.
Mamiverse: Related to the question above, what are some low-cost or DIY themes that will pull a party together and make it memorable?
Mrs. Lilien: Ask guests to bring a dish or their favorite appetizer. This is a great way to save on food and refreshments. I’m a huge fan of disposable décor! This means using brightly colored and inexpensive paper props to make your party space pop. I love clustering brightly colored lanterns and tissue paper balls. Filling a ceiling with helium filled balloons is also fun and affordable. Filling a large doorway or even covering a wall with various colored crepe paper streamers from floor to ceiling as a back drop can make a big festive splash.
Mamiverse: Lastly, I’ve always envied those hosts who can throw a great party and make it look effortless. Is there a secret (or secrets) to foolproof entertaining?
Mrs. Lilien: Nothing screams ‘lame party’ like a hostess running around crazed in an effort to please. Avoid this common blunder by planning ahead. This will really add to your ‘hostess with the mostess’ aire. Placing ready-made cocktails in large drink dispensers in various locations is on way, as is having no fuss snacks at the ready and strategically placed. Create a little kiosk with fun napkins, utensils, straws, condiments and trash bin to minimize the interruption. The most important thing to remember when throwing a party is to keep the event fun throughout the afternoon or evening.