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How to Host a Neighborhood Meet and Greet

Hosting a neighborhood meet and greet can be just as much about having fun as it is about meeting your neighbors.
Hosting a neighborhood meet and greet can be just as much about having fun as it is about meeting your neighbors.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Living in a neighborhood can be more about strategic maneuvers to "get inside and hide" rather than to "meet and greet" our neighbors. Hanging out in the front yard and getting neighborly takes time that most of us never seem to have enough of; we'd rather be with family or have a few precious moments alone. But most of us can find time for a party or two.

Hosting a meet and greet is one way to get all of the introductions among neighbors into one social function while including the family and setting some boundaries on the amount of time involved. A meet and greet can take place on your block, in backyards, at a community center, park or pool, or at a local hall. There are no rules to how, where and when it happens, but there is one must do for hosts: Everyone in the neighborhood gets an invitation.

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What kind of super-party-planning men and women have the time on their hands to plan such a thing? Virtually none, and that's why the meeting and greeting usually gets started in the planning stages, long before the party itself.

Getting to socialize and network with your neighbors can begin months before you're all together and celebrating, and whether you're one to run errands and make phone calls or to recruit and organize, hosting a party for dozens or even hundreds isn't as hard as it sounds as long as you do it at the neighborhood level.

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Some of the best tips for hosting a meet and greet are the same as for any party: invite well, plan for things to go off-plan and keep people fed, hydrated and happy. Here's how some of that translates to a block party for kids and adults:

  • Recruit people to make and hand deliver invites and to follow up with e-mail or Facebook reminders to keep the upcoming event alive.
  • Check with the neighborhood association and local authorities about needed permits and fees.
  • Pick a venue and have a plan B for weather changes if held outside.
  • Where will people go to the bathroom? It's a big deal for a large gathering!
  • Who will do what? Delegate work down to the smallest details and exchange texts for all the rest -- keep in-person meetings to a minimum or over cocktails or dessert as time allows.
  • Decide on music, entertainment or any games and be bold in asking neighbors if they have any special talents they'd like to share, musically, with decorating, or otherwise (except maybe miming).
  • Take plenty of paper while inviting and keep signing up neighbors for food, shopping or entertaining. Most people will readily volunteer up front before being asked and others will be ready to hand over money on the spot rather than cook or be part of the planning.
  • Plan the menu and pick up plates, cups, cutlery and coolers in advance to just get it checked off the list.

Sound expensive? Maybe not.

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Many neighborhood and community organizations have funds set aside for things like block parties, or they may be more than willing to pitch in for food, rental tables and chairs or entertainment. Having the neighborhood come together is the goal of good, grass-roots community planning, so enlist help by contacting neighborhood or condo associations.

Local businesses generally love to offer some discounts, giveaways and novelties for the exposure, and restaurants may even set up mobile food service or loan some commercial cookers or expertise for feeding on a large scale. Others may cater at a really fair price.

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Larger retailers in the vicinity of the neighborhood might help with discounts and donations, and schools and churches in the area often are subject-matter experts in hospitality. Police, fire and government departments also may have resources for setting up educational booths, sharing food or volunteering manpower. Give them a call and see what falls into place.

If the cost and planning come down to a potluck among neighbors, setting a maximum to spend or making a game out of it, for instance seeing what people can come up with using just $20 and a coal-burning hibachi or the same dish, such as spaghetti or creative hot dogs, keeps it affordable for everyone while adding a game element.

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There are tons of fun things you can do with the kids, like set up a face painting station run by the neighborhood's teenagers.
There are tons of fun things you can do with the kids, like set up a face painting station run by the neighborhood's teenagers.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Before all of the planning and budgeting gets started, decide on the where, when, what and how. Here are some ideas for getting started:

  • Have a pig roast: An affordable option that will make the whole neighborhood smell great. Neighbors can bring sides and drinks.
  • Dance in the streets: Make the music and the empty space the focus for all ages to cut a rug.
  • Make stuff: Set up an art fair atmosphere with interactive stations.
  • Compete: Turn the cooking into a competition with chili, barbecue or even sandwiches being pitted against each other as part of the party.
  • Put the kids to work: Let them serve lemonade, paint kids' faces and get creative in how they spend the time, allowing you some adult time, too.
  • Host scavenger hunts: Open homes and community businesses and make the day a game.
  • Combine with a holiday: Halloween, Easter and Fourth of July are some neighbor-friendly times to celebrate while keeping kids safer and closer during treat sharing, egg hunting and blasting off rockets.
  • Combine with community service: Host a beautification project to plant a garden, clean up blight on the landscape or "take back the night" from crime together.
  • Trade or sell: Have block-wide garage sales with a big shared party afterward or set out items for trade and covet your neighbors' goods for a day -- while getting to keep a few.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the time with people you only wave at most of the year, and party on!

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Sources

  • Allrecipes.com. "Block Party Basics." Allrecipes.com. 2012, Feb. 26, 2012. http://allrecipes.com/howto/block-party-basics/
  • City of Fort Collins. "Block Party Tips from Neighborhood Resources." FCgov.com. 2012. (Feb. 26, 2012). http://www.fcgov.com/communications/pdf/block-party.pdf
  • Fullenwider, Kyla. "How To: 10 Ideas to Blow Up Your Block Party." GOOD.is. June 13, 2010. (Feb. 26, 2012) http://www.good.is/post/how-to-10-ideas-to-blow-up-your-block-party/
  • Garbarini Hurley, Alice. "Throw a Great Block Party!" GoodHousekeeping.com. 2012. (Feb. 26, 2012) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/entertaining/block-party-0603
  • National Association of Town Watch (NATW). "National Night Out 2012." NATW.org. 2012. (Feb. 26, 2012) http://www.natw.org/nno/index.html

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