Throwing a neighborhood party is a great way to meet your neighbors. There are so many options, but the important thing is to share the responsibility so that no one person gets worn out. Gather a few people to be a committee and have fun!
DECIDE ON THE TYPE OF PARTY AND LOCATION
This should be determined based on the number of people you expect. Ideas include closing off a neighborhood street, using someone’s house or backyard or using a community clubhouse, pool or common area. It may not be possible to find a large enough space within the neighborhood, so a community center or park might be a good option.
Once the location is determined your next step should be to decide how you will feed everyone but keep in mind that you don’t always have to provide a meal. The party can just be appetizers or dessert. Here are a few of the common ways to handle the food.
A COVERED DISH OR POTLUCK
This is by far the easiest option. Everyone brings a dish to share. Expect casseroles and lots of good home-cooking. Mealtrain.com/learn/potluck is a great way to sign up and make sure you have a balanced meal.
MAIN DISH PROVIDED
The neighborhood or a few neighbors provide the main course (fried chicken, pizza, hamburgers, etc.) and neighbors bring sides. You can choose a theme like Italian or Mexican. Have everyone bring soups. Crock pots are great for this.
Everyone brings food for themselves – no sharing.
A committee of neighbors does all the cooking by either preparing together or assigning dishes.
Everyone shares the cost paying by the meal or the HOA funds the dinner. This can be a full course meal or pizzas. This is both easy and difficult. It is great to have someone do all the cooking, but you have to have good RSVPs. If the meal needs to be paid in advance, it requires some accounting and collecting of money.
Pull out the grills, and everyone brings and cooks their own meat. (Chicken, hamburgers, and hotdogs are good choices.) Everyone also brings a side or dessert to share.
Use Facebook, email, newsletters or websites to let people know what you are planning. You can also print invitations or fliers and go door to door. Remember that it is against postal regulations to put items in mailboxes. Websites like evite are another great option.
TABLES, CHAIRS, DRINKS AND PAPER GOODS
BYOB is always easy and budget-friendly for a large crowd. You provide napkins and plates. You may need to provide plastic utensils, cups, and ice. Also, consider any necessary condiments including salt and pepper. These can be quite an expense for one person if the group is large. Either money can be collected to cover the cost or someone can bring paper goods rather than a food dish.
SHARE THE DUTIES
Assign people to help with planning, set up and clean up. That way one person doesn’t get left at the end of the party with a mess. If you plan to do parties on a regular basis either form a committee or assign different neighbors to be in charge of each event. If one person is always in charge, they will burn out, and the gatherings may come to a complete halt.
Name tags are always helpful in large groups. Decide if the party will have activities like a game or movie night. Add the activities to the assigned duties list.
Above all, have fun!!
A SOUP PARTY
Nothing is really easier for a fun winter night with soups and chili’s. Watch a football game together and you have a winner. This is a really fun way to watch the Super Bowl by having a souper bowl…
Making the Meal Easy: Keep the soups hot using crockpots. Purchase a good quality bowl- sometimes the cute colored plastic bowls won’t hold up to the heat.
What Makes This Fun? Tasting lots of homemade soups. It is easy prep and easy clean up too. If you are watching sports, add a game of chance with squares. And have everyone dress in their favorite team colors.
PROGRESSIVE DINNER WITH A TWIST
Traditional progressive dinners are fun, but the idea doesn’t work really well if you have a large group. So here is a fun twist on the idea. It requires a little preparation from a committee but we always found it worth the effort. RSVP was required so we could set the number of hostesses needed to seat everyone. The whole group gathered at one home for appetizers which were brought by half of the neighborhood and that hostess provides beverages. During the gathering for appetizers, the main course hostesses drew names based on the number of seats they had at their dining room table. So, if a hostess could seat eight, they would draw 3 couples from the names. We made allowances for singles. After the main course, we gathered again at another home for dessert. Dessert was provided by the other half of the neighborhood and the hostess provided coffee.
Making the Meal Easy: The main course was pre-purchased by the committee. Frozen chicken cordon blue from Sams, tossed salad, hash brown casserole, steamed brocolli and rolls. The host family provided drinks. The committee gathered the day of to wash and chop the brocolli, make the salads, and prepare the hashbrown casserole using dishes provided by the hostesses. The food was then delivered to the host house to be baked.
What Makes this Fun? The exciting thing was not knowing who you were going to dine with until you got there. It was all by chance so you always met someone new. Dividing into smaller groups for the main course allowed great conversations but the larger gatherings for appetizers and desserts let you see everyone.
PIZZA AND MOVIE NIGHT
Order pizza and every one pitches in a few dollars. Project a movie on a big screen complete with popcorn and candies.
Making the Meal Easy: What is easier than Pizza that is delivered? Create a popcorn bar for dessert. Pop the corn yourself or buy it by the bag in the chip aisle. Have bowls of mix-ins like nuts, M&M’s, candy corn, dried fruit, chocolate chips etc. Finish it off with flavored salts and toppings. Have small paper bags or popcorn boxes for serving.
What Makes This Fun? Choose a family friendly movie. Maybe an oldie like the Ghost and Mr. Chicken or the Apple Dumpling Gang. If you want to project a movie — connect the computer to a TV or use a projector with a sheet for the screen. Use blankets for the tables and bundle up under blankets.
OLD FASHION COVERED DISH DINNER
These meals, also known as potlucks to some, are a great southern tradition. Everyone brings a dish to share and they spread out along the table buffet style. People love these dinners where all the cooks bring their specialty dishes. Nothing beats loading up your plate with little of this and bit of that. Make you sure you provide sturdy plates!
Making the Meal Easy: Use mealtrain.com/learn/potluck to organize the food. The website includes RSVP and message board. You don’t have to assign certain types of food- but knowing what others will bring helps create a well rounded meal. If there are not funds to purchase the paper goods and utensils remember to include them on the list. Assign set up and clean up duties so one person isn’t doing all the work.
What Makes This Fun? Food, food and more food. Who doesn’t love a casserole? Taking home an empty dish from a coverdish is the ultimate compliment to the cook.
HALLOWEEN PRE-TRICK OR TREAT PARTY
Gather the neighbors before trick or treating for a chili dinner. Add a few carnival type games and then go as a group trick or treating.
Making the Meal Easy: Have crock pots of chili and toppings (cheese, sour cream, peppers and fritos). You can add hotdogs to the menu for chili dogs or for the kids who don’t like chili. Everyone knows how hectic Halloween night can be for working parents who have to get home, fix dinner and get the over excited little goblins dressed up. If the neighborhood has a mix of ages, it is nice for the families without trick or treat age children to provide the meal.
What Makes This Fun? Seeing all the dressed up kiddos for longer than a knock on the door. Before trick or treating, you can bob for apples, play musical tomb-stones (chairs decorated to look like tombstones) and of course a fun photo booth. Allow time for the candy monitors to get home to despense treats.
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY PARTIES
Meals are fun but the holiday season is really hectic. How about appetizers or desserts only at Christmas. Combine some simple treats and a gift exchange for a lot of fun. And don’t count out the idea of a cookie exchange. Who doesn’t love taking home a plate of cookies.
Making the Meal Easy: Everyone shares in the cooking responsibility by bringing an appetizer or dessert to share and BYOB. Play some Christmas tunes and you are set to go.
What Makes This Fun? If you are doing a gift exchange have a dollar amount that is easy for everyone. You might even consider an white elephant exchange. Narrowing down the shopping choices often helps so choose a specific type of item like tree ornaments, books, or gag gifts. If you decide on gag gifts be sure everyone understands. If children are invited, you might consider a toy drive for toys for tots. It is always fun to have a Santa visit.
This type of event is perfect for a picnic. Find a local park or community area large enough for old fashion games like sack races and relay runs. Add a few other games and have an awards ceremony complete with a podium.
Making the Meal Easy: Everyone can bring their own picnic and dessert to share. This is the perfect time for ice cream churns. While the events are being played let the ice cream churn. The neighbors who don’t have ice cream churns can bring toppings, cups and spoons or cookies. Another dessert option is watermelons — including a seed spitting contest.
What Makes This Fun? Involving the kids and having an annual event is a great way to spend a summer afternoon. A little competition and team work is always fun. Don’t forget to bring water… lots of water kept cool in coolers of ice.