It's not just a catchy tune from Sesame Street, but a fair question. Do you know who is living next to you or across the street? Do you peek across the fence to check out the neighbours? Often, our neighbourly contact is limited to a nod as we drive in and out of our garage or a friendly wave as we come back from that jaunt to the mailbox.
A few decades ago, neighbours sat at the kitchen table and knew one another's names. Their kids played hide-and-seek in four or five backyards, and ran freely among them. There were no block parties; they weren't needed. You must admit, before having kids, you were probably one of those who drove in and out of garages, minding your own business. Like you, many of us didn't spend time weeding in the front or walking the dog either. But then, two or three kids later...you're walking to the park and playing outside. And now, your neighbours are your social network.
A great way to meet the people in your neighbourhood and to welcome those new to your street is to have a block party. Everyone thinks it's a great idea - but everyone is also waiting for someone to take charge. Here are some ideas to get it started:
Find Out Who's Interested
Print out a paper asking anyone interested in helping plan a block party to contact you, or to come to an address on a predetermined date and time for an informal meeting. Put the paper on the street mailbox, or go for a walk and deliver the paper into everyone's mailboxes.
Have a Meeting
There could be two of you...there could be ten. Not everyone is able to attend meetings, but we bet that there'll be a lot more able (and willing) to attend the party.
Choose the Date
Be sure to check the community calendar for popular events that might detract from your party.
Apply for a Permit
IMPORTANT: Apply for a permit online at the City of Regina (www.regina.ca/Page3267.aspx). You will have to have 2/3 of the residents on your street sign a petition stating they agree to have the block party. You can split this task amongst those who showed up at the meeting.
Once you receive the permit, make invitations and put one in everyone's mailbox. If you are planning a BBQ, charge a fee per family, per couple, and per individual that will cover the price of food. A great way to decrease the price is to ask one side of the street to bring salads and the other side to bring desserts. Remind everyone to bring their lawn chairs. Have neighbours drop off their RSVP's and cheques (no cash please) to your or another co-organizer's mailbox or to your door. Remember to have a time deadline for the RSVP's. It is also helpful to put up a reminder or two somewhere where everyone can see (e.g. the community mailbox). Ask for volunteers to bring folding tables to set the food on. If you are having a BBQ, having someone volunteer to use their portable BBQ is probably essential. Remember to thank them with a gift card of some sort. Having big garbage cans and recycling buckets handy by the food table helps in the clean up.
Decide on the Fun and Entertainment
Door prizes are fun. You can indicate on the invitation that you welcome any type of donation as a door prize - you never know who on your street has work mugs or a company golf shirt to give. Bouncers are a great source of endless fun for the kids. As bigger kids don't always look out for the younger kids, we suggest getting the slide bouncer. It's a great way to get them up and down, and everyone get a turn. Also, be prepared that not all parents will supervise their kids while they're socializing. You can have a sign-up sheet for people to volunteer to supervise in shits. And you can find community face painters, such as the Street Culture Kidz, to come for donations. Good old street hockey is also fun. There are an unlimited number of organized games you can plan.
After all the planning is done, be sure to have fun and really use the opporunity to get to know the people in your neighbourhood.