by AINSLEY LAWRENCE
The aspiration to become more involved in your community is a beautiful thing. It must be your Southern hospitality prompting your need for more community connection. After all, Southern hospitality is all about being neighborly, welcoming, and entrenched in charity.
Not only do you want to get to know the people, businesses, and environment around you, but you want others to want to do the same. But how?
A block party, that’s how. Block parties, like other community events, are perfect for connecting you to the community around you and vice versa. However, it’ll take a real effort to plan and execute one.
If you’re up for the challenge, do the following to ensure your block party happens seamlessly and provides a memorable and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Get a Team Together and Plan the Event
Organizing a block party is a huge task. For example, southerners love a good party theme, so figuring one out for the block party is crucial.
It isn’t a Southern party without a buffet of fried foods and down-home cooking, so getting the right catering is critical. And don’t forget the entertainment and activities, such as duck, duck, gator, water hose limbo, and the bug swatting competition.
There’s a lot to do and it’s nearly impossible to do it all on your own.
So, your first step is getting a team together to help you execute the block party. Ask close friends, family, and neighbors if they’d be interested in helping out.
Once you’ve got your team picked out, start planning the block party. It may take a few meetings with the crew to hammer out all the details. Be sure to cover:
- The timeline for completing all tasks;
- What the Southern theme is for the block party;
- What kind of food and drinks you’ll have;
- What safety measures you’ll have in place;
- What kind of entertainment and activities you’ll have;
- Who’s in charge of what before, during, and after the block party.
Take your list and tackle each item on it one by one with your team.
Prioritize Inclusivity and Accessibility
Visit almost any Southern household, and you’ll leave feeling like you’re a part of the family, even if it was your first visit.
You want to bring that spirit to the block party and ensure everyone feels included at the event. Fostering inclusivity starts with understanding the various needs of the people attending. Consider accessibility needs, like clear signage, designated walkways, wheelchair ramps, seating needs, and lighting sensitivities.
Invite people from all walks of life to the block party and offer a variety of games and activities to accommodate a range of interests. Ensuring you have a large spread of food options helps with promoting inclusivity too.
Prioritize inclusivity and accessibility so that as many people as possible don’t just come to the event, but sincerely enjoy it and feel like they belong there.
Get the Word Out About the Block Party
The whole point of a block party is to have the entire block and community at the event, enjoying themselves and bonding with their neighbors.
Take some of that Southern hospitality and charm to the streets and hand out flyers about the upcoming block party. Stop in local businesses and ask that they post your flyer somewhere in their establishment for more promotion.
Consider doing something like a raffle to generate more interest. People can purchase raffle tickets for cool prizes you put together with local businesses. But they have to be present at the block party to get the prize if they win.
Also, rely on social media to get the word out about the block party. Post on your personal social media pages as well as any community pages you’re in charge of. Start talking about the event for at least a couple of months so people can mark the event on their calendars.
Use videos to show what you’re doing to get ready for the event. Share updates as you secure vendors and entertainment. Encourage people to volunteer. Go live and do Q&As about the party on social media.
Getting people to come to the block party will be a lot easier with intentional promotion.
Be the First to Arrive
When the day of the block party comes, you’ve got to be the first person to arrive at the location. Southerners are known to be extremely respectful of people and their time and strive to never be late.
With this being at the core of your Southern soul and the fact that you’re running the show, being there first to direct traffic and start setting up is a must. Also, it’ll be easier to solve issues because you can catch them early.
Your team should be arriving shortly after you. Gather everyone together and ensure they know their roles and what needs to be accomplished before the party starts. Be sure to have your checklist in hand as you oversee tasks getting done. Jump in wherever you’re needed to ensure things get done on time.
Although it may not always be possible due to extraneous circumstances, set up everything an hour or so before the event starts. That way, you can check everything on your list thoroughly. You want people to have a good time, but you also want them to be safe.
When all is done to your and your team’s satisfaction, let the block party begin.
Promote Bonding and the Building of Community Relationships
Block parties are for bonding as a community and building individual relationships with the people in that community. Building a strong community is important because it helps facilitate a safe, clean, meaningful living experience. It contributes to the location thriving overall.
Make sure that you’re sifting through the party creating a festive atmosphere to engage neighbors and promote a sense of connection and camaraderie. Start meaningful conversations with people about who they are and how they feel about the current state of the community.
Play games with the kids. Bring different groups of people together to do the team activities you have available. When the food first comes out, get on stage or the mic and make a toast before everyone eats. Anything to promote bonding and the building of community relationships.
Organizing a block party in your neighborhood is a hefty challenge to take on. But a team effort, a bit of planning, and a touch of Southern spirit will help you conquer the challenge and put on an unforgettable community event.