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Summer is finally here, and with it comes the alfresco weather we’ve been waiting for – and the promise of longer days and warmer evenings. In the summer, many families make the front yard their own personal playground for kids to ride scooters, shoot baskets or make a few bucks hosting a lemonade stand. And with all this comes more time spent with neighbors.

Whether you’re the new kid on the block or you’ve seen dozens of summers, Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to host a neighborhood block party as your street’s “official” kick-off to summer. Check out these ideas to keep it simple – and budget friendly.

Make Planning a Snap

By its very nature, a block party is designed for everyone to pitch in, but if you feel like you’ll be overwhelmed with the planning, go ahead and buddy-up with another neighbor to get the ball rolling. But if not, don’t worry…once the invites are out, you’ll likely have plenty of helping-hand volunteers.

An important detail not to overlook is to check your city ordinances to see if you need a permit for a block party. If there are lots of kiddos, you might want to officially block off the street from car traffic to keep everyone safe, and often you need to contact city hall to do so.

Some neighborhoods have email lists to keep everyone updated on news, and if yours does, that’s an easy way to get the word out. Don’t know everyone on the block? No biggie – that’s why you’re holding the fiesta, to have the neighborhood get to know each other. Print out easy invites that give all the particulars: date, time and what to bring (more on that later).

You also might want to set up a signup sheet through a website like SignUpGenius.com to organize and make sure you have all your bases covered. Include an RSVP email and phone number so you’ll know how many guests to plan for. And don’t hesitate to ask those coming to bring tables, chairs, yard games, activities or anything else that you think you’ll need.

Organize a Prize-Winning Menu

Next to having fun, a block party is all about the food! So you’ll want to make sure there’s plenty of it, but this doesn’t mean you have to supply it all. It’s often easier to plan when there’s a “meal theme” like a taco or baked potato bar. You supply the main food, like the taco meat or potatoes, and invite your neighbors to bring the shells and all-important toppings. This is where the signup can come in handy so you don’t end up with three tubs of sour cream and without cheese.

Or you can go with good ol’-fashioned burgers and dogs – the quintessential summer food! If you take the lead of being the “grill master,” you’ll feel more comfortable asking others to bring condiments and sides, like salads and fruit.

For beverages it’s cheaper – and causes less waste – to concoct a big batch of lemonade or brew iced tea and have pitchers of ice water on hand rather than having single-serve plastic bottles. Just make sure to offer fun stickers or a label maker so that guests know which cup is theirs; this helps to limit the reaching for a new cup each round.

And for dessert…well, that’s a no brainer. Two words: sundae bar! Provide big tubs of vanilla ice cream and invite each neighbor to bring a topping for a sweet end to the meal.

Kick-Off the Fun with Activities for All Ages

Sure, you’re going to eat, but you also want to have some fun. The best way to get everyone involved right off the bat is to play a game that gets folks mingling. One idea is to have them wear nametags on their backs that have the names of celebrities written on them without them knowing the name, then have them ask the others questions to try to guess who “they” are.

Set out blowing-bubbles bottles, balls, sidewalk chalk and paint so that younger guests have an immediate activity to get started on. Then once most families have arrived, jump into an activity or two to get the party started before you start eating. Here are a few fun ones:

Sidewalk Art: Give each family a set of art supplies and have them decorate their house driveways. Give them a time limit – 15 minutes or so – so guests can let their inner artist out and to beautify their street. After everyone is done, reconvene and vote on which driveway is the most creative, colorful, etc.

Painted Flower Pots: Let each guest decorate a flower pot with paint or other art supplies, and have them plant a pansy or other small bloom inside it. Invite each family to put them on their porch – it will give you a smile every time you walk down the street as you remember the fun block party.

Two Truths and a Lie: Want to get to know your neighbors better? Have everyone write down a couple of little-known facts about themselves, and one that sounds plausible but is a big lie, then guess which one is the whopper. Chances are good you’ll learn something interesting about a neighbor that you never knew, including which ones are the best liars!

Scavenger Hunt: Divide into teams. You can do families together or kids against grownups and then give everyone a list of a few objects to find around the neighborhood. Every other house in town will be jealous that you live on the “fun block” when you stop by to ask for a can of chicken noodle soup or something purple. Then, invite them to join along on the hunt. The more the merrier!

Bigger and Better: Like a scavenger hunt, but bigger and better. Give each team a paper clip or other small object and instruct them to knock on doors of houses asking for inexpensive items. The object of the hunt is to trade-up at the next house for something bigger and better than what they received from the house before. Put a time limit of 30 minutes or so on the hunt, after which everyone reconvenes and votes on which item is the biggest and best. The winning team is exempt from cleanup.

Wind-Down Activities

Once everyone’s broken the ice…and eaten…and eaten, you might sense the party is starting to wind down. That’s when you’ll want to pull out all the stops with an end-of-evening dance party. Ask each guest to write down a favorite song and have someone play DJ to spin each person’s song, or a part of it, to get everyone’s song played. Getting your collective groove on will hopefully help everyone appreciate each other’s taste in music a little bit more.

If you have space, an outdoor movie or karaoke stage can be other ways to end the evening for those who haven’t had enough fun yet or want to linger. This is when great bonding happens!

At the end of the evening, we guarantee your block will feel a little more neighborly – and you’ll be ready for the best summer ever.

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