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Independence Day Block Party

Guest List and Invitations
Everyone in the neighborhood is invited, of course; at your planning meeting, you should discuss whether additional friends and family are welcome. There really is no limit to how many people can attend a block party—20 or 200—you'll want to arrive at a decision with your neighbors, and then check with the city to ensure your planned guest list doesn't exceed local restrictions.

If your neighbors are amenable, you might consider inviting additional guests: regular delivery or service people (mail carriers, water delivery people), owners and employees of local businesses, or people from nearby streets.

After you've set all the logistics, create a one-page flyer that details all your party details. Print up the flyer on red paper, and stick a copy in each mailbox on the block. Print up enough copies to give to any additional guests; if you've decided to invite friends and family, leave a dozen flyers in each mailbox.

Depending upon your approach, you'll either be providing one dish for a potluck or a full menu that will feed several dozen. That said, following are crowd-pleasing options for each course:

  • Appetizers—Dee's Bean Dip and tortilla chips, onion dip and potato chips
  • Side dishes—Mostly Fresh Fruit Salad, Terry Wilksen's Summer Salad
  • Main course—Green Grocer's Pasta Primavera, grilled sausages on sandwich rolls with mustard and grilled onions
  • Dessert—Mom's Strawberry Trifle, Cream Cheese Brownies
  • Beverages—Sangria, Cranberry Cocktail Punch Cooler
Preparing group-sized portions can wreak havoc on your budget. If you're watching your budget, choose the Green Grocer's Pasta Primavera as your entree. You'll provide tasty fare without emptying your bank account.

If you've elected to have a potluck, select your dish from the preceding menu; if you've opted for the full-meal approach, select one item from each course.

Décor and Favors
Have fun with a red, white, and blue décor! Shop for inexpensive red, white, and blue balloons, streamers, and paper cutouts. Make sure you hang an American flag in front of your house, and purchase smaller flags to stick in plants or on the lawn.

Instead of providing individual favors for each guest, which might not be realistic if you're having a large party, set up a doggie refreshment stand in front of your house. Provide large bowls of fresh water and purchase or bake nutritious dog cookies. Package two or three cookies in plastic bags (tied with red, white, and blue ribbon!) for folks whose dogs are not in attendance.

If you have the budget and the inclination, create a more elaborate favor. Few people have read the Declaration of Independence, so provide your guests with their own, aged-looking copy. Look online for the text to the Declaration, and copy it, adjusting the font size so that it fits on one page. Print out several dozen copies, soak them in weak coffee, and allow the pages to dry thoroughly; you can also purchase antiqued paper at most office supply stores. Roll up each copy and tie with a red-white-and-blue ribbon, and offer them in a basket in front of your house.

Music and Entertainment
Fourth-of-July music should be boisterous and crowd-pleasing. Set up a boom box in front of your house and play a variety of music that will entertain the various types of people on your street. In other words, choose kid-friendly music that doesn't contain offensive lyrics. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Louisiana Gumbo, Putumayo
  • Stevie Wonder—The Definitive Collection, Stevie Wonder
  • Other Voices, Other Rooms, Nanci Griffith
Remember that you're sharing your space with other people, and adjust the volume accordingly. If people are rocking out on your lawn, pump up the volume; otherwise, keep it adjusted to a level that won't intrude on the party.

If your city allows fireworks, plan a stellar display to end the party. Start at dusk, pooling your neighborhood resources for enough fireworks to last about 45 minutes. Suggest that neighbors set up lawn chairs and fetch blankets if it gets chilly. Take turns lighting the fireworks, allowing each adult to set off a few, if they so desire.

If fireworks aren't allowed in your area, pick up a piñata or plan another kid-friendly finale.

If you aren't allowed to set off fireworks, check with city hall to see if they are planning any public displays. For example, from my mother's front yard, we can view the spectacular our city council puts on each year. If you aren't as fortunate as my mom, consider ending your evening with a carpool to the nearest display. This might be too much effort for such a large party, but the idea is worth mentioning in your planning meeting. Even if only a small group wants to go, it would still be a fun ending to the evening.

More on: Fourth of July

Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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