1. Get a permit. Check into whether you need city permission to block off the street, serve alcohol, or have charcoal grills or wood fires.
2. Delegate. Ask people to take on specific tasks, such as creating or distributing invitations, selecting and preparing the location, gathering barbecue grills, and procuring tables and chairs.
3. Invite with style. If you’ve got a theme (Italian, beach party, daisies, whatever), play it up with fun graphics or kid-drawn art. Request everyone bring a favorite dish to share, plus their own choice for grilling. Place invitations on doorsteps, not in U.S. mailboxes.
4. Use the force. Draw in local police and the fire department—they usually have a spare car or truck available for community events. Kids love them, and you’ll build goodwill with local officers.
5. Plan a parade. Encourage decorated bikes, tricycles, baby carriages, skateboards, scooters, wheelchairs, and pets on leashes. Use a megaphone to announce starting time and for lighthearted commentary.
6. Add play time. Designate a fun-loving adult to coordinate games and activities for all ages. Some to try: coconut bowling (using coconuts and empty milk cartons), raw-egg toss, water-balloon dodge ball, sidewalk-chalk art contests, and board and card games (great for seniors).
7. Tune up. Most neighborhoods harbor incognito musicians; ask around and sign them up to jam. Or enlist a neighborhood teen to provide a portable stereo and be the evening’s DJ (songs should be suitable for all ages). Be sure to find out about noise-abatement rules.
8. Be prepared. Put up canopies and provide water coolers to prevent sunburn and heat stroke. If you live in a hot climate, consider having the party in fall or winter.
9. Think beyond the day. Help neighbors stay connected by using the event to create phone lists and initiate neighborhood children’s safety programs.