By Kristin Boza
As the summer winds down and neighbors return from vacation, August through October is typically the most popular time for Beverly/Morgan Park blocks to host their annual block party. Block parties are a great way to get to know your neighbors and meet new friends. Whether this is your first year planning a block party, or your 25th, this guide can walk you through the process.
Get A Permit
You can’t just block off your street for a day, you need to obtain a permit for your block party. Visit Ald. Matt O’Shea’s office at 10400 S. Western Ave., or fill out a permit application online at 19thWardMobile.com.
Invite Your Neighbors
Don’t rely on word-of-mouth to alert your neighbors about the block party — you don’t want to risk leaving anyone out! Create a flier invitation and pass it out to every house on the block. Keep in mind some people may not have access to a computer, so don’t limit yourself to an electronic invitation. On the invitation, be sure to include parking restrictions, cost to attend and what they can bring to the party. A good tip is to assign food items, for example, have everyone on one side of the street brings a side dish and on the other side bring a dessert. Also, use the invitation as a call for volunteers to help the party run smoothly and to get more neighbors involved in the planning process.
Games & Entertainment
Keep your block demographics in mind when considering entertainment. If you have a lot of kids, make sure there are activities that every age range would enjoy. Popular choices for kids include face painters, relay races, scavenger hunts and bounce houses. Dino Jump offers the traditional bounce house, as well as slip-n-slide and waterslide options, which adults can also enjoy.
Speaking of adults, don’t leave them out of the fun and games! Bean bags games are always a hit, but go beyond that to cultivate a neighborly bond. Go back to your childhood and plan potato sack races, egg-and-spoon races, or a pie-eating contest! Offer prizes as incentives, like small gift cards to local stores and restaurants.
Once the sun goes down, start a dance party. Hire a DJ or see if anyone on the block is in a band and willing to play.
For many, the most important aspect of any block party is food. Have your neighbors bring dishes to share, but consider catering for the main course. Fox’s Pub offers catering plans for any event, and they are available for block parties. “For block parties, we recommend our broasted chicken,” said Kelly Macak of Fox’s Pub and Catering. “Besides being delicious, it can stand the heat and is great leftover. A block party best-seller is the pasta salad – everyone loves a good pasta salad and it’s not too heavy!”
Another great catering option is Ellie’s Cafe.
Add in some competition with a pie/brownie/or cookie contest. Choose a panel of judges to taste each entry and declare a winner. Someone will get to boast having the best dessert on the block for an entire year!
The least-favorite task of any block party. Enlist the kids to dump trash and recycling into their respective cans. Make sure you leave the street free from any grills, bikes, toys and other debris that could get ruined once the cars come back onto the street. Collect volunteers for clean-up help before the night gets started!
It’s not every day that you can find a reason to get together with your neighbors, young and old. Enjoy your block and Love Where You Live!