I had just met the man. He was in our store shopping. He had moved into Idaho Falls from the West Coast, Oregon if I remember correctly. I asked him how he was getting along in his predominately LDS neighborhood.
“I love my ward,” he enthusiastically exclaimed.
I didn’t expect that.
“We moved into a house that had been vacant for a while. Lots of weeds. On our first Saturday, we headed to the yard with our work gloves. The first car that came down the street was a passenger van. It drove past a bit, came to a stop, and then backed up.
A bunch of kids piled out. That family spent part of their Saturday pulling weeds.”
Ah, good neighbors.
He continued, “My neighbors know that I’m never going to join the church but I sure like being invited.” He barbecued with his neighbors regularly. And he liked being invited to ward parties.
In our neighborhood, a block party is a mini-ward party with a special invite to the non-members. Ours are small parties and not nearly as often as they should be. They’re a good time and not a big deal. That’s what block parties should be—not a big deal with a ton of work.
Before we dive into the mechanics, take a look at this week’s featured specials and products. Don’t miss the red springform pan deal with two free gifts. Depending on the products you choose, you will save 50% or more.
With that, you’ll find 24 great summer recipes, some of which are just right for a block party. One is for the Pink Lemonade Pie (and cousins), frozen pies that you make with fruit juice concentrates. You’ll have fun with that delightful recipe. If you take it and keep it frozen (slip back to the house and get it before serving), everyone in the neighborhood will want your recipe.
Inviting your neighbors
Ascertain the interest. Call several of the neighbors and ask them what they think and when they would like it. Listen to their suggestions: The weekend before school starts may not be a good time.
Make a flyer. Put the details in it including what you want them to bring and what you’ll provide. Suggest that they stick it on their refrigerator so they won’t forget. If it’s okay for them to bring their own BBQ grill and burgers, tell them.
Follow up with a phone call. The attendance will be much better and you need to know how many people to plan for.
Planning the food
All you really need to make your party successful is plenty of good food and good neighbors. Figure out what you’re going to provide and what you want them to bring.
A potluck works fine where everyone brings a dish but you’ll need a coordinator so you don’t end up with 12 bags of potato chips.
It’s also okay to ask people to bring their own meals, not just one dish. If you do that, have a community BBQ station with several grills.
Decide if you’re going to ask for contributions to offset your costs and then look at your family budget. Maybe you provide the paperware, a grilling station, and the root beer or other beverage.
Making carbonated beverages with dry ice is easy and a nice touch that your neighbors will appreciate. See how to make carbonated beverages with dry ice here. Print out the instructions; some of your neighbors would love a copy.
Are you going to provide the dessert? If so, make it simple but different. Cookies and punch work just fine. Have several kinds of cookies like Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake, Chocolate Sugarsnaps, or Caramel Apple. Include some chocolate cookies. Different is memorable. Nothing against Oreos but they won’t make the party.
Most things that are wet from salads to meat are potentially hazardous and shouldn’t be out of the cold more than a couple hours. Sweets like sauces and pies are the exception if they have enough sugar. That means that unless folks are going to eat and run, they need to bring a cooler stocked with ice. Set the example by putting your perishables away and suggest to others they do the same. In your handout, suggest that they bring a cooler with ice for their leftovers.
In our neighborhood, everyone knows everyone, so activities may be unnecessary. If folks don’t know each other, plan a few ice breakers and maybe something for the kids to do.
If someone new has moved into the neighborhood, in my book, that alone is an excellent reason to have a block party. Develop a strategy to make them feel welcome. Make sure others in the group are aware of their new neighbors and are armed with some basic information like where they came from and what they do.
Consider the new kids. Chances are the kids have long since made friends with the newcomers but if not, make it happen.
* Consider music. If you do play music, don’t make it loud and don’t’ get away from mainstream. Keep it background music. Remember some of your neighbors may be hard of hearing. Others won’t appreciate that country rock—as hard as that may be to believe.
* Decorations. Especially if you are doing it around a holiday, that’s a fun addition to your party.
* For bigger parties, check on local ordinances and permits.
* Have a plan to keep the kids safe from any neighborhood hazards—ditches, traffic, or strangers.
* Have some first aid supplies on hand for a skinned knee or cut finger.
Dennis Weaver has burned food from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Miami, Florida. He is the founder of The Prepared Pantry in Rigby, Idaho and the author of How to Bake: The Art and Science of Baking available as an E-book or as a Kindle book on Amazon.
He loves to help people bake and shares his vast collection of cooking and baking knowledge on his blog as well as in his E-books and Magazines.
Dennis lives in Rigby, Idaho, with his wife, Merri Ann. They have five wonderful children and five beautiful granddaughters.