You could meet your neighbors by going door-to-door with casseroles or plates of baked goods,
but the block party has become a popular way to get to know and socialize with those who live near you in a fun, party atmosphere. While block parties or neighborhood gatherings are held around the world, the idea first took hold in the U.S. during the World War I era. Neighbors in New York met to sing, mingle and honor local boys who were serving overseas. In the 1960s, block parties became more popular as families moved to the suburbs and wanted to connect with their neighbors.
From large urban areas to small rural communities, block parties are a way to form bonds, talk about neighborhood issues in a friendly way and enjoy food and games. Residents can customize the block party to meet their needs and bring people together.
What Do You Do at a Block Party, Anyway?
Many block parties have a theme that dictates the type of food and activities. Sometimes this will be related to a holiday like the Fourth of July, where people gather for a cookout and fireworks, or will revolve around food, like a taco night or ice cream social.
Keeping the kids entertained is an important part of a block party where families live. Running a sprinkler, setting up games like ladder ball or holding a water balloon toss can keep those of all ages interested. Neighbors may also decide to hold a clothing or book swap, where people bring what they no longer need and let others help themselves.
National Night Out, which encourages neighbors to get together in the evening to increase safety, is another common reason why many areas organize block parties. Started in 1984, NNO has grown to involve more than 38 million people in 16,000 communities who gather on the first Tuesday in August to build relationships and talk about safety in their communities.
For those block parties where neighborhood safety is on the agenda, police officers and firefighters may be invited to attend. These public safety officials can bring equipment and talk to residents about ways to stay safe and work together.
Finding the Right Space
Because every neighborhood is different, the right place for a block party might be one neighbor’s large yard or an area park. In many cities, residents can apply to block off a street or two in order to hold a larger gathering. Any space you choose should have room to set up tables that hold food and games as well as chairs and blankets for hanging out.
Positive Social Outcomes
Social relationships like those formed at block parties can have positive outcomes, like reducing crime (since neighbors are looking out for each other) and improving mental health. Besides being fun, block parties help individuals increase their social capital by encouraging people who live near each other to form stronger bonds.