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Independence Day Block Party

Learn how to organize a block party for Independence Day.

In this article, you will find:

Party plans and publicity
Food, folks, and fun

Party plans and publicity

Independence Day Block Party

Even if fireworks are illegal in your area, chances are good that at sundown, your neighbors still congregate outside, hoping to see some fire in the sky. This year, make it official with a neighborhood block party.

Because block parties are a little different than other types of parties, you'll need to approach this event as a group party, rather than one you plan yourself. Although your job as the coordinator is to keep track of the logistics—keeping a checklist of what needs to be done, inviting the neighbors, and establishing ground rules—you'll want to delegate the rest of the work in a way that ensures everyone feels included, but not overloaded.

Begin planning this party by speaking to everyone on your street and making sure they want to participate. If some of your neighbors aren't interested, don't pressure them to join—they might change their minds later on, but even if they don't, it's their decision.

Next, pick a night for a planning meeting—at least a month before the party date—and print up flyers detailing when and where (your house) the meeting will take place, as well as a short list of topics you'll cover. This meeting should only be about an hour, and you'll want to serve cookies and coffee. At the meeting, you'll want to discuss the following:

  • Party date and time
  • Logistics—Will you block off the street? Will you rent tables and set up the food in the middle of the street, or will each family set up a table in front of their home?
  • Food—Will each family fix a meal to share, or will you potluck it, with each household providing a different dish?
  • Guests—Are outside guests welcome, or would your neighbors prefer to limit the guest list to neighborhood residents only?
  • Fireworks—If they are legal in your city, will each family provide their own assortment, and then enjoy them with the rest of the neighborhood? Or will you take donations from each household and buy a bulk assortment?
  • Cleanup—Will everyone be responsible for cleaning up their own mess, or do you want to assign different people to each task?
  • Permits—One person (probably you) will need to contact the appropriate city agency and determine the procedure for blocking off your street. Because the related fees usually aren't high, you can probably pay for the permit yourself; however, if the cost is prohibitive, you'll need to take up a collection from the neighbors.
After you've covered all the details and assigned tasks, trust your neighbors to carry through their assignments. Call each person a week ahead of the party to check in. As soon as the idea for a block party begins to surface, investigate your community's particular regulations for such events. Permits can take time to process, so start early.

Keep good records of your planning! At your kickoff meeting, circulate a clipboard and ask everyone to list their household's contact person and phone number. Next to each name, record any assigned tasks. When you call to check in the week before the party, you'll have an easy time remembering who is responsible for what.

    You'll Need
  • Ingredients for each of the recipes and any serving tools
  • Décor
  • Fireworks, matches or lighter, disposal container, and piñata
  • CDs and boom box
  • Tables and chairs; lawn chairs and blankets
Date, Theme, Budget, and Venue
July 4th—If Independence Day falls on a weekend, you're all set. However, if it falls on a weekday, you'll need to talk to your neighbors and determine a date that works for everyone, generally the Saturday closest to the fourth of July. Begin your block party in the midafternoon, at about 3:00 p.m., which will give you plenty of time to eat, chat, and clean up before dark.

Hey, baby, it's the fourth of July! theme—On the official day of our country's birth, celebrate in style with all things American. Stores across the country will be well stocked with Independence Day merchandise, so you should have no trouble finding décor and other thematic elements.

Low to midrange budget—Each household should plan to spend a set amount of money, which you'll decide at your planning meeting. Because block parties are typically very casual, you shouldn't plan to spend more than about $50 to $75 per household. Plan to add an additional 25% onto your own budget for permits, invitations, and so forth.

The street venue—Block parties take place outside, on the street where you live. Generally, block parties run from corner to corner, involving houses on both sides of the streets. However, your neighbors might wish to extend the party for several blocks. Only you know what kind of neighborhood you have, so use your knowledge of the neighbors to guide your decision.

Traditionally, the party takes place in the middle of the street, with both ends blocked off to traffic. People can wheel their grills out to the driveway, where they'll prepare the food, and then serve the meal on tables set up in the middle of the street.

You can also take a "street fair" approach, with each family setting up a food station and table in front of their houses. Guests can wander up and down the street, stopping at different houses and sampling the fare and conversation.

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