Whether you’ve just said goodbye to the last of the snow or your neighborhood is warm year-round, Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of summer, brings with it the promise of balmy nights, juicy burgers and lazy days at the pool. A Memorial Day block party is about more than just summer, though; it’s a chance for your neighborhood to remember the troops who have protected the country. Now that’s something everyone can celebrate.
Choose a Prime Spot
Just because the entire block is invited doesn’t mean you’ll want to spread out over the entire block. If you’re the block party head honcho, you might opt to host the party in your neck of the woods; if you’re planning via committee, solicit an agreement to host from a family in the middle of the block — or, if one such neighbor exists, the one whose backyard boasts a trampoline, twinkle lights and a grill that would be the envy of anyone with a personalized marinade recipe. Depending on your block, spreading out over the front or backyard of one house might work beautifully, but it’s worth looking into the possibility of closing the block to traffic during the party — no cars means the little ones can run around safely. Contact your municipal or county government for specifics.
Coordinate Delicious Dishes
Ask each neighbor to bring any dish and you might find yourself with two dozen fruit salads and nothing else. Instead, give some guidance on your invitations, whether they’re hand-delivered or sent via email. For instance, ask families on one side of the street to bring appetizers or salads and folks on the other side to bring desserts, with every family bringing its own drinks and entrees to toss on the grill. If your neighbors aren’t exactly culinarily inclined, offer up the suggestion that each family chips in $20 or so before the party so you can order salads and sandwich platters from a local deli. Search your cupboards for condiments, and spread the word that anyone with extra paper goods should bring them.
The Morning Of
A block party is all about community, so you shouldn’t be forced to haul supplies alone. Ask neighbors to drop off folding tables and chairs, labeled with their names, to the party spot on the morning of the event. Coax a few grilling gurus to bring their grills over too, then set to work with a few neighborhood pals to set things up. Cluster groups of tables throughout the yard, designating a few as food tables and stocking them with paper goods and condiments. Set out coolers filled with ice, arrange grills on a patio or driveway where they’ll be removed from kids’ play areas and connect speakers to your MP3 player or stack CDs next to a portable CD player. String lights and lanterns throughout the area and use American flags and red, white and blue bunting to finish your decor.
Keep Kiddies Busy
After they have a blast at the block party, your kids will want to spend all summer outdoors with neighborhood playmates. “Taste of Home” suggests engaging kids with bike-decorating contests and games like relay races and scavenger hunts. Set up portable soccer goals and a basket of balls; within 10 minutes of play, expect the gang to have invented their own goofy game. Provide sidewalk chalk and basic craft supplies so shy kids can enjoy the party too. If you have a real gaggle of youngsters to entertain, ask each one to bring a plain white T-shirt and provide fabric markers. Near the end of the party, organize the group into a sidewalk parade so they can show off their finished shirts.
Honor the Troops
While soaking up laughter and sunshine, don’t forget the reason for Memorial Day. Honor the troops while enjoying yourselves and everyone will go home feeling warm and proud. “Good Housekeeping” suggests inviting local heroes to your block party; send an invitation to a local veterans group and ask neighbors to bring along any current or veteran military personnel. Ask the children to make cards to send to veterans or active troops, and set up a donation jar for the adults. Pool money to create care packages to send to servicemen and women now serving our country.