Blog Community Neighborhood Nirvana: How to Plan the Perfect Block Party This Summer

Neighborhood Nirvana: How to Plan the Perfect Block Party This Summer

By Tracey Henkels, March 6, 2024

Block Parties are a fun and easy way to build community and get to know your neighbors. You may be wondering where in the world you’d even start to plan a neighborhood block party – and I’m here to help! Luckily, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) created the “Portland in the Streets” program, which is specifically targeted towards organizing block parties. They received a whopping 956 applications in 2023, the largest in their history! Let’s walk through the steps to planning a successful block party and explore the meaningful impact it can have on your community:

Step 1: Understand the rules and regulations

It’s important to understand how to throw a safe and legal neighborhood party. There are rules around permits, road closures, and safety guidelines to ensure your event is safe and enjoyable for everyone. Some things to consider: 

  • You must apply for a permit, but luckily the permit is free!
  • The event must be free and open to the general public. 
  • The block party cannot be associated with business or organizations and cannot exceed 100 people at any point. 
  • It must be on a non-arterial street and classified as “Local Service Traffic.” 
  • It must be on a block that is not part of a bus or transit route. 
  • It must take place between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., not to exceed 8 hours per week. This includes setup or cleanup time. (there are additional rules to extend until 9 p.m. – traffic control devices need to be equipped with retro-reflectivity and flashing lights). 
  • It may span up to 2 blocks but intersections must remain open (note: it will take PBOT longer to review applications to close multiple blocks!).  

Step 2: Gather a planning committee

Forming a planning committee with your neighbors can make the process smoother and more enjoyable. Delegate responsibilities such as permit application, logistics, entertainment, and communication. Collaborating with others not only lightens the workload but also builds a sense of community involvement.

This is also a great time to set the intention of your block party. Bock parties provide an opportunity to build stronger relationships, share resources, and support one another. Consider including activities that promote collaboration and sharing, such as a potluck, knowledge-sharing workshop or a community swap meet.

Step 3: Choose a date and time

This is a great time to let your neighbors know that you’re planning a block party. Chat with them and choose a date and time that works for the majority. Check local events calendars to avoid scheduling conflicts and to increase the chances of a higher turnout. You can check the City of Portland’s Events calendar, and Willamette Week has a pretty comprehensive event calendar as well. 

Step 4: Apply for and secure permits

You can apply for a block party permit via PBOT’s website here. You’ll need to register for an account with the City of Portland if you don’t have one already (which is fairly quick and easy).  The website also includes helpful information on street closures, barricades, and other essential details to make your block party a success.

Step 5: Plan activities and entertainment

You don’t have to have activities and entertainment, but it does make the day more fun and memorable, especially for kiddos. From live music and games to food and drink options (no alcohol sales and/or alcohol consumption on the street), consider the preferences and interests of your neighbors. Perhaps you have a neighbor who plays the guitar, or a gardener who would love to share their knowledge!

Many people also love Block Party Bingo where you make your own bingo cards using one of the free “Human Bingo” templates available online. Fill the squares with questions about your neighbors, such as “rides their bike to work” or “has a vegetable garden”. Then, ask your attendees to find someone who can answer yes to each question and have them sign or initial the corresponding square. The first person to get a bingo wins a prize. It’s a great ice-breaker and conversation starter, can help you discover new things about your neighbors and make new friends.

Step 6: Communicate with your neighbors

By now you’ve already let your neighbors know that you’re planning a block party and settled on a date/time. In fact, PBOT encourages all permit applicants to reach out to neighbors before applying. Once approved, you must notify your neighbors at least 2 days prior to your closure. They even have a flyer you can print and use.  

Step 7: Enjoy, share and repeat!

Once you’ve organized a block party, the next will be even easier! You can trade off tasks and rotate the planning committee, try new activities and share what’s working with friends in other neighborhoods so they can be inspired to organize their own. 

Organizing a block party is not just about throwing a fun event; it’s about building a stronger, more connected community. The goal is to create an inclusive and meaningful gathering that brings neighbors together in a spirit of camaraderie and support. Through these events, we can create a more vibrant and resilient communities where everyone feels a sense of belonging and shared responsibility.

For more information, visit the Portland in the Streets/Block Party Program website or contact them at: 503-823-4003 // pbotblockparty@portlandoregon.gov

Tracey Henkels

Principal Broker | Earth Advantage | OR

She/Her

Tracey Henkels attributes her disciplined nature and relentless work ethic to a childhood spent rising and retiring by the light of the sun on her family's apple orchard in Iowa. Gratefully, that Midwestern mentality has served her well over the years as Tracey continues to deliver excellent customer service, superior technical skill, and a wide array of industry knowledge on behalf of her clients. While Tracey wouldn't trade her career as a Real Estate broker for any other, her first love was Architecture. After receiving her degree at Iowa State University, Tracey worked in the architecture world for over 6 years before deciding she wanted to forge a new professional path. In 2004, Tracey jumped heart-first into the world of helping her people buy and sell houses. She's never looked back. When you meet Tracey, one of the first things you notice is her positive energy, and zest for life. One of her favorite things about being a broker is the ability to help people make powerful transitions. Tracey's natural patience, unwavering professionalism, and optimistic attitude make her both a compassionate broker and tough negotiator. Tracey is committed to serving others, making a difference in her community, and giving back. When she isn't working hard to best serve her clients, you might find her tending to her garden, growing fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers, cross country skiing, or planning her next exciting adventure.   Kelsey Burkett | Broker Licensed in OR | teamhenkels@gmail.com
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  • T: 503-715-6140
  • traceyhenkels@gmail.com

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