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Street Party Planning Tips

by - Monday, June 23, 2014

One of the best things about being a kid in the summer is playing outside with your friends. Last weekend, the kids on our street were in heaven when we closed off the block for our annual street party. I was one of the organizers so I thought I'd share my street party planning tips in case you're organizing one of these fun events in your 'hood.

1. Know your audience. The dynamic of a street changes every year - children get older, people move away. If possible, try and get a survey ahead of time and find out ages of people on the street. Our street party was about 50% kids under the age of 12 and also had a growing group of teens. I felt it important to have organized activities for the young set and the teens so everyone felt involved. Look at your street makeup and plan the day's agenda accordingly, with something for everyone.

2. Know your city regulations. If you're closing off your street, you'll likely have to apply to the city and meet stringent requirements (street permit, liability insurance, site plan, waste management plan etc.). If you add on activities such as fireworks or inflatable rides/bouncy castle, those may have their own specific permit and insurance requirements. A movie night might also require a special license.

Circus Jonathan kept the entire street enthralled. He was AWESOME.
3. Communicate. If you want your neighbours to attend your street party, then you'll have to let them know about it! You can do that by distributing flyers with details door to door or set up a Facebook group (we did both). It's also a good way to get ideas on what activities people want and to solicit volunteers. But the communication needs to continue during the party as well! Have a speaker system so you can announce games and activities, or at a minimum, have a board displaying the day's agenda.

Streamers, bows, tinsel garland and other dollar store craft supplies are all you need to pretty up a bike
4. Explore free activities. There are lots of fun or inexpensive activities you can incorporate in your street party. Here are some that we had this year:
- bike parade: A great way to kick off the party. Ask kids on the street to decorate in the days leading up to the party and they'll be so excited by the time it finally arrives!
- traditional party games like water balloon toss or musical chairs; a dance party 
- fun stations: set up a few supplies along the street for the little kids - sidewalk chalk; bubble making; create a giant chalk-drawn checkers board
- bike races: all you need are pylons
- necklace making with string licorice and cheerios
- tattoos, face painting, and wacky hair (get the teenage girls on the street to man the station)
- fire truck/ambulance/police car visit (be aware these visits are always "tentative" as there may be emergencies which take precedence)
- schedule an ice cream truck visit after dinner. Have people pay for their own treats, if you can't include it in the party budget

5. Seek donations. Local businesses might be willing to provide donations like gift card prizes for games. Neighbourhood grocery stores could extend discounts on some of your food supplies. Local politicians may donate services (a councillor candidate donated the cotton candy for our party).

Chloe had a steady stream of customers at her lemonade stand
5. Plan for big fun. Incorporate a few showstopper elements like bouncy castles, a live band, or street performer. Think creatively and you can save a few dollars. We ended the party with a movie night that was almost free! We had the DVD (Despicable Me 2), used the old liner from our neighbour's backyard skating rink for the screen, and borrowed the office projector, my brother's speakers and old school receiver for surround sound. Everyone grabbed a tub of pre-packaged popcorn before the movie started. Fun!

Organizing a street party can be daunting - you're basically throwing a party for 100 or so people! But with a bit of planning, you can create a day that leaves fun memories all summer long.

Do you have a street party? What fun activities do you do?


If you're in the Greater Toronto Area, here are some resources I found helpful:
Street Event Guidelines
Street closure application
Toronto fireworks bylaws
Crowd control barricades
Special event insurance
Circus entertainer
Pre-packaged popcorn or cotton candy

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