Planning Of course the planning is always the hardest part. What weekend works? Who is going to be in town? The first year might be the hardest, but if its a set weekend every year (and its fun!), people will start to plan around it. Usually the summer is so crammed with delicious fun try to schedule the event in Autumn, the days are still warm and the nights are a bit cooler. Have a schedule of events so the children have things to do and you dont hear the dreaded mom .Im bored! But be careful not to be too regimented if the kids are having fun playing kickball and its time for a craft let them play kickball!
Pick a part of the neighborhood thats most conducive to a large group that doesnt have traffic; possibly a cul de sac or if your neighborhood has a park or open space use that area. Be sure to have a clearly designated house (or two!) that can be used for bathrooms and for emergency I scraped my knee mend-ups. Have a start and end time. At least for the people who have volunteered their yards and houses this gives them some peace of mind that they will get their houses back eventually. If everyone is having fun, you can always keep going! Also, check if your city requires permits nothing spoils a party like the police showing up.
Delegate Dont try to do this by yourself. YOU need to have fun too! Gather a couple neighbors and friends and work together. Sometimes its easier to combine a few blocks together so that you have more people to help and, as always, the more the merrier at the party! Everyone has their strong points dont put the neighborhood grill-master in charge of the kids games. Recognize what people have to offer and take them up on it.
Do you have some teens on your block? Hire a few of them to run the kids games. This will give them a job maybe even some cash and allow the parents to enjoy each others company, relax, and have a drink. Speaking of drinks delegate each family to bring their own cooler. That way everybody has what they like to drink and theres no worries about liquor costs for those that dont drink.
Theme A theme doesnt have to be cheesy or fancy. Its just fun and gives you a base line for ideas. The theme could be fall fest which leads you do bobbing for apples or decorating pumpkins. Another could be retro fun which leads to sack races, red rover, and horseshoes. This could also provide you with some direction as to what, if any, entertainment you want to have. There are inexpensive rentals for cotton candy machines and soft serve ice cream. You could go big and hire a clown, face painter and jugglers if youre doing a Circus theme.
A few things you dont want to miss
Music. Every party needs tunes. Either hire a DJ or delegate the music responsibility to a neighbor who has a knack for that.
Fun Ideas. Try an outdoor movie! Have a craft area where kids can create and play together. These will entertain the kids and free up the adults to socialize. This event is just as important for the grown ups as it is for the children! Or you can always throw in some larger scale games like volleyball, softball or badminton to have whole families playing at the same time.
Financials Parties cost money. But they really dont have to cost a lot. Usually I am not a believer in a pot luck party, but this is one exception. With a pot luck, everyone brings what they like, is in their budget, and theres always enough food! For the bigger ideas you can collect as little as $10 per family and get some great things for your money! Again, delegate: if you have a homeowners association, see if they are able to help with some of the cost. Or find someone who can manage the financials so that the money is spent well and is accounted for. Be careful that you dont overspend, because, as the planner, youre likely to end up footing the bill.
In the end, all that really matters is that youre creating memories for your family and youre strengthening the community bond. Dont stress about decorations and schedules. Sit back, relax, and have a beer this is one party the neighbors wont complain about because they are there!
About Ann Kienzle
Ann Kienzle is owner of *play , a childrens toy, gift, and book store located in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. With more than 15 years in the toy industry, Ann takes joy in finding toys and books that are developmentally sound, safe, unique, and completely fun!