How to Throw a Block Party in 5 Easy Steps

By Signe Todd

A neighborhood block party is an excellent way to enjoy a warm summer day, socialize with your neighbors and meet new people who live on your street.  When I lived in the Irvington neighborhood, my neighbor Dana Griggs taught me the nuts and bolts for planning a successful block party in 5 easy steps.

Step 1 – Plan Ahead!
Block parties require a street closure permit and liability insurance from the neighborhood coalition. When selecting a date for your event, you will want to allow 4-6 weeks for completing the application and to ensure you give the City two weeks advance notice of your permit request. The application process is not as daunting as it may sound and speaking from experience, the folks at the neighborhood coalition really support block parties and are available to help. Other points to consider are: Permits are typically not issued for parties that are longer than 1 block or extend past 10 pm. You cannot have a block party on a street that is on a bus route, has a bus layover, or is a signalized traffic intersection. Also, the City won’t allow alcohol in the street, so plan for drinking to take place on neighbors’ private property. Finally, if you’re planning to have amplified music that someone could hear (and possibly complain about) more than 10 houses away, be prepared to also fill out a noise variance application.

Step 2 – Contact Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN)
Once you have decided upon a date, visit NECN’s, website, Host a Block Party to download two sets of forms you will need in order to get your permit:

  1. NECN’s Event Application Packet (This serves as a request for NECN to provide insurance coverage for your event. NECN requests a $15-35 sliding scale donation for insurance coverage.)
  2. Block Party application packet. (This serves as your permit application)

NECN staff is available to answer questions about the application process. Call (503) 823-4575 or email or info@necoalition.org if you get stumped along the way.

Step 3 – Fill Out the Petition
Your block party application will include a petition, which must have signatures from all the residents and/or businesses on the street you wish to close. This is the fun part of the application process because it gives you a positive talking point to greet neighbors without asking them for money.  If a house is vacant, indicate that on the petition. You need to account for all of the houses on the block and its adjacent properties, including side yards.

Once you have all of the signatures, mail or drop-off your completed applications (Event and Block Party packets) to NECN; upon approval, NECN will submit your application to the City and the City will send you your street closure permit.

Step 4 – Rent Barricades

For our block parties we rented from American Barricade Company, located at 173 NE Columbia Blvd and can be reached at (503) 285-6616. Barricades (ask for six, “Type 1” barricades) should be placed at both ends of the street with a copy of the permit attached.

Step 5 – Coordinate Entertainment and Food

Distribute a flyer two weeks in advance of the event to remind neighbors and request donations of food, beverages, tables, chairs etc. Consider having an activity especially if there are young children in the neighborhood.  Inviting the local fire department to bring one of their fire trucks is always a big hit with the little ones plus they hand out cool stickers!! If you decide to rent a bouncy house or climbing wall you need to be aware that NECN’s insurance will not cover these items. Instead you will need to have the vendor to supply NECN with a copy of their insurance. Alternatively, you can have the bouncy house on your property and your homeowners insurance will cover injuries.

Another great option is to hold your block party in a park.  To begin, you need to reserve a park and obtain a park permit for a modest fee. Parks can be reserved by calling (503) 823-2525. If have your party in the park, you can skip steps 1 and 2 on this list.

Really it is that easy!!  I have coordinated two block parties and the rewards of building social connections with my neighbors far outweigh the time spent in planning. Dana, if you are reading this, thanks for teaching me how to throw a block party.

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