Here comes the neighborhood

May 21, 1992|By Diane Suchetka | Diane Suchetka,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Lived on your street for three years and still don't know the family two doors down?

It's not too late.

You can get to know them and all your other neighbors -- with a good old-fashioned block party.

The whole thing can cost as little as $20. Look what you get in return -- the kids will be amused for an entire day, no traffic on your street, new friends.

And those with experience say it's easier than it looks.

"It's such a tradition for us, there's nothing to do except ask around to see when a good day is," says Marsha Millar, whose neighbors on College Avenue in Rock Hill, S.C., have been throwing block parties for years.

"All we do is block the street off and tell the kids to bring their bicycles and skates." But beware. Even those who've been throwing these shindigs for years say they've hit a few potholes.

Their advice?

* Don't announce a block party and then invite all your co-workers and golf buddies. That defeats the purpose of neighbors getting to know neighbors.

* Don't forget to spell out what everyone should bring: meat to grill for your family, a side dish to share, beverages and dessert. Doris Castevens, who helps organize block parties on her street, says her neighborhood left that information off their flyers one year. They'd already held a few parties and figured everyone knew what to do, but some people showed up empty-handed.

* You'll need barricades to close the street. Several companies rent them; look in the Yellow Pages under "barricades." Get more than are required.

Now you're ready to roll.

If you start six weeks before the date, everything should run smoothly.

* First, call around and see who's interested in helping organize the party, then meet and pick a date.

* A month beforehand, call your city transportation, engineering or police department to find out how to close off your street.

* Going door-to-door for signatures is the time to make your own list of everyone on the street, where they live and their phone numbers, says Ms. Castevens.

* One to three weeks before the party, send out fliers reminding everybody of the date, time and what to bring.

* The week of the party, pick up what you'll need at the grocery store for your dish and call a company that rents barricades to make sure they'll be available. Some companies aren't open on weekends so make sure you pick them up on Friday before the party. They'll fit in the back of a station wagon or pickup truck.

* Clean-up is a cinch if everyone pitches in and you have a garbage can and recycling bins.

So dig in.

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