Guide to Planning the Best Block Party

By Kristin Boza 

Summer is here and so is block party season. Block parties are great ways to foster camaraderie among neighbors. If you’ve never planned a block party before, or if you need some fresh ideas, use this step-by-step guide to plan the ultimate Beverly/Morgan Park block party. 

Step 1: Set a Date and Get a Permit. Survey your neighbors to determine the best date for the party; most take place on a Saturday afternoon to evening. Block parties must have a permit so that the city can block off the streets so revelers can eat, drink, and play. Permit applications are available at the 19th Ward Office website at www.19thwardmobile.com/block-party-permit.  

Step 2: Collect Money. Start by drafting a budget. Figure out if you want to use the funds to pay for a meal (like trays of chicken) and what type of entertainment you will provide. Also consider setting aside some money for game or raffle prizes. Since families come in all shapes and sizes, think about setting a price per child and per adult. Many blocks ask for $5/child and $10/adult. 

Step 3: Ask for Help. Rround out your food options by making a potluck list. Ask neighbors on one side of the street to bring a dessert and those on the other side to bring a side dish. Encourage everyone to bring a cooler of their own drinks, which will also cut down on costs. Recruit neighbors to bring their tables and chairs for setting up food tables; if everyone brings one, you won’t have to rent any, which can get expensive. 

Step 4. Plan Entertainment. Entertainment options are endless and depend on the ages of the people on the block. If there’s a ton of kids on your block, rent a bounce house. Just Kidding Around (773-414-5482 or JkaPartyRentals@gmail.com) and Nielsen Party Rentals (708-935-4184) are based in Mount Greenwood, and Big Mama’s Bouncy House is located in Evergreen Park (773-744-1712). Choose some music entertainment, too. If you’re on a budget, consider bringing out your own speakers and creating a playlist. If you have more money, hire a DJ for a few hours. DJ John Dreznes from Beverly Records is a popular choice for neighborhood gatherings; call him at 773.779.0066 . Another local DJ is Ruta Spencer; for info send an email rutavg@ameritech.net 

Step 5: Create Kid-Friendly Activities. The bounce house will only contain the kiddos for so long. Plan some games to keep them occupied, and more often than not, these games can be run for free. Some possibilities: set up a craft table with stickers and markers, have a water balloon toss, create a scavenger hunt, hire a face painter, and once dusk settles in, engage in an ultimate game of Ghost in the Graveyard. Don’t forget the grown-ups! An egg toss competition can be a lot of fun! 

Step 6: Clean-Up. The street will be messy after the block party. Be sure to recruit volunteers to help pick up the trash and haul it to the alley, and be sure there’s plenty of trash receptacles strategically placed along the street to encourage people to use them. 

While they’re a lot of work for the organizers, block parties are intended to strengthen the community. Getting to know your neighbors is what Beverly/Morgan Park is all about.