Last Updated: December 12, 2022
This page gives some tips about organizing wonderful street parties, while also allowing our website visitors a way to contribute a short narrative and photos from their own festival.
Here's the thing about street parties. Besides being fun, they can really give your neighborhood image a boost. They can bring social media influencers, prospective home buyers, bloggers, and possible investors into your community for the first time. They can provide valuable exposure for neighborhood businesses.
In my career I have seen a couple of memorable instances in which city government officials who attended a street party or festival in a neighborhood they had previously ignored suddenly became advocates of that area in city hall. Somehow a lively and festive atmosphere jolts them out of groupthink about a neighborhood.
The other major advantage is getting people out of their houses and helping neighbors get to know one another. At least in prosperous societies where electricity and sophisticated transportation and utility networks allow people to isolate themselves with their immediate families, that's becoming more and more rare.
We also observe that the pandemic has made some people a bit more shy, reserved, and suspicious, and that tendency may need to be corrected if and as public health concerns allow. On my own block, a previously robust street party involving four short blocks did not occur this past fall because not enough people expressed an interest and indicated they would support the street closing. If you encounter such a situation, some persistence will be required. I plan to invite everyone to a party in my backyard this summer as a way to break the ice.
Knowing the people nearby helps build social capital, which means that your network of friends gets to know part or all of another network, and so forth.
Social capital helps the community when it needs to pull together to accomplish common goals. It facilitates spreading the word about good causes but also helps people care about people outside their immediate circle of acquaintances.
Before we provide you with the form so you can show the world your favorite festival, here are a few ideas to help you launch a successful event:
1. Try to convince your town or city to allow you to block off the street from vehicular traffic. Most of the compromises we've seen were quite unsuccessful and very frustrating to the motorist in the end. If an arterial street is key to your neighborhood, and you can't convince authorities to block it, try to at least temporarily prohibit on-street parking for the duration of your party.
2. Like all parties, the food and drink must be evident, abundant, and delicious. Ignore this at your peril. But for outdoor events, the aroma itself is especially important, which is why unless you have a well-established party where everyone participates, you might think of grilling meat or aromatic vegetables.
3. If your party is meant to build acquaintance among neighbors, perhaps to help with organizing or invigorating a neighborhood watch, you may want to be fairly strict to limit attendance to your immediate area. Other parties, of course, are huge and are aimed at neighborhood public relations, street animation, or the retail and even economic development opportunities that arise as a result of a major festival.
4. Do take care to reach out to people likely to be inconvenienced by this event, either because they will lose business due to customers being unable to reach them, or perhaps because they are nearby residents who will hear the noise and potentially have to pick up the trash.
5. Good music makes a party, and by all means, try to make it live music if possible.
6. Prepare ahead for great social media, providing your neighbors with a jpg file for easy Tweets, Facebook posts, or Instagram posts, as well as suggesting a hashtag and furnishing a steady stream of small bits of information. Think ahead about a cool backdrop for selfies.
Some of you think that street festivals are just frivolous activities. However, we think that giving the exceptional street party is a key to community development because it helps to build the market for housing and retail, it builds loyalty on the part of current residents, and it provides easy opportunities to reach out to new business and non-profit partners.
Below you can submit your experiences of community-building street parties, festivals, and block parties. If we think your content is understandable and relevant to the topic, we generate a separate page from your submittal, so you can proudly show off your favorite event on our website. Then you can share the resulting page on your own social media stream of course. Tell us about lessons learned too, if you care to.
We know there are dozens of such events in every major city this year, so please help us flesh out this page.
Tell us what made this party or festival in a street or streets great. What was distinctive? Did it build neighborliness? Or was it more about enjoying the atmosphere or getting outdoors?
Click below to see contributions from other visitors and editors to this page.
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