Block parties can be cozy, simple potlucks in a pocket park, or they can be large productions with food trucks and entertainment. In either case, advanced planning and organization will help your block party be a success.
We know planning a block party may be daunting, so we’re here to help! Use this “Rock Your Block” party planning guide to get you started and consider reserving the community Party Wagon (“a party in a box”) to jumpstart your party needs.
Planning Your Block Party
Can I close my street?
Not without a special event permit from the City of Issaquah.
- It costs $300 for the special event permit, plus the cost of required barricades to close the street if the permit is approved.
- The City and the IHCA must be named as additional insured on a certificate of insurance by the host. The conditions of the permit also require that a public notice be taken out in the local newspaper regarding the street closure.
- It is best to host your block party in the safety of your local park. However…
Can we reserve a park?
Most parks in Issaquah Highlands are first-come, first-served as we do not have staff to manage park use on weekends. We encourage neighbors to share space in the spirit of community.
- The picnic shelter at Central Park can be reserved through the City of Issaquah Parks and Recreation Department.
- The Village Green park can be reserved for private events with a 3-hour Blakely Hall reservation.
- Select an area that does not have heavy automobile traffic adjacent to where guests will gather. Kids get so excited that they forget the rule to stop and look both ways before crossing streets. Drivers won’t necessarily know you are hosting a party and a darting child could cause a dangerous situation.
- If a pond or other water feature is nearby make sure children are properly supervised to avoid accidental drowning.
- Arrange games and activities away from grills, generators, and extension chords.
- Secure pop up tents with weights or stakes to avoid damage to property or injury to guests from a wind gust.
- Be cautious when using stakes to secure tents or volleyball nets to not damage an underground sprinkler or powerline.
- Bring a first aid kit to the party for scraped knees and bruises.
- Remember that fireworks and even sparklers are against the law in the City of Issaquah
Pick a date and have a back-up plan.
- Be creative! While summer seems like the most appropriate season, you can also get to know your neighbors by:
- Hosting a neighborhood Egg Hunt or Trick or Treat Halloween Party
- Try a Progressive Dinner for adults to move from neighbor to neighbor’s house, while babysitting is arranged at one or two other homes with teens!
- Go impromptu and bring out hot cocoa and cookies on a snow day!
- Caroling around the neighborhood is another way to bring the community together! Gather in a garage for cider and gingerbread, pass out holiday song sheets and head down the sidewalk with joy-filled voices
- Use social media, an email list or go door-to-door and poll your neighbors on their preferred date and time of day.
- Be mindful of religious observances. Be inclusive.
- Rain is a part of the PNW life, consider a plan B or an alternative date should the forecast change.
How do we fund a block party?
- The Party Wagon is FREE to use and full of resources when everyone in your neighborhood is invited to the party.
- Some neighborhoods ask for a per person contribution to cover the cost of certain supplies collected in advance or on the day of the party.
- Involve your neighbors in the planning and save money! Who will donate the use of their grill, extra coolers, tables and chairs? Who has a volleyball net or other outdoor group games?
Getting the Word Out
What is the best way to get the word out?
- The more advanced notice, the better.
- Does your neighborhood use social media such as Facebook or Next Door? Create an online event with all the details.
- Maybe you have all the email addresses of your neighbors? Use Evite or other free online invitation services to create a fun invitation.
- Make a flyer and go door-to-door.
- Plan to follow up regularly with invited guests. Track your RSVPs per household, adults and kids, so you can best plan for those in attendance.
Food and Fun
How late can our party go?
Parks in Issaquah Highlands close at dusk.
How loud can we be?
- Issaquah Highlands follows City of Issaquah Municipal Code that states quiet hours are 11pm-7am.
- The IHCA Rules and Restrictions allow for any resident to report any noise that disturbs the peace, and this can be very subjective.
- Invite all your neighbors, and be considerate of those who will be impacted by noise from your party plans.
- If the police are called, they can shut your party down.
Should we have a bounce house or other inflatable?
- Who will be responsible for the inflatable and supervising to ensure safe play?
- Do you have enough liability insurance to cover a guest injured in the bounce house? Check with your insurance agent!
- Is there power available? Where will the inflatable be placed?
- Can you safely secure it to the ground to avoid it blowing away or tipping over?
Ask for help!
Hosting a block party can feel overwhelming if one person takes on the entire event. Involve teens and older kids too!
To ensure everyone has a great time, think about all the details.
- Make a map
- Where will food and beverages go?
- What direction should the food line flow?
- Where will games and activities be played?
- If public restrooms are not nearby, which homes are opening their bathrooms for guest use?
- Recruit set up help
- Rolling out grills, setting up garbage cans, popping up tents tables and chairs goes much faster with lots of help.
- Pro Tip: have someone walk the party area in advance and pick up dog waste to avoid a mess during the event!
- Be welcoming
- Set up a table with name tags for everyone.
- Ask guests to indicate where they are from originally or how long they have lived in your neighborhood as a way to spark conversation.
- Invite Special Guests!
- Eastside Fire Rescue will sometimes bring their ladder truck, complete with fire hose
- Issaquah Police Department will make an appearance upon request
- City Council and other governing officials might appreciate having an audience of its citizens
- Highlands Council and IHCA leadership could be available to answer neighborhood or community-related questions
- Create energy: Music is a great way to get guests in the party mood!
- Ask a volunteer to create a block party playlist.
- Consider live music? Is there a garage band in your neighborhood? Are their musicians next door that might play a set or two for guest enjoyment?
- Consider a neighborhood jam-session, sing-along or karaoke contest.
- Keep the kids engaged
- Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, hula-hoops, and a craft table are all simple ways to entertain the children.
- Teens can host a face painting activity.
- Ask everyone to bring a white t-shirt and tie-dye together!
- Kids love to be involved in the planning. Allow kids to create a talent show, puppet show, magic show, pet parade or bike decorating contest to add fun to the afternoon.
- Everyone loves old fashioned games too! Three-legged races, sack races, limbo contests and a piñata are easy to organize.
- Feeding the masses
- Pot lucks are fun ways to involve everyone.
- Depending on the time of year, having several grills going and everyone brings their own meat and side to share is easy to organize.
- Casseroles are also fun ways to feed a lot of people.
- If you are super organized, divide the neighborhood into sections and designate who brings serving supplies, salads, sides and desserts. For example, by street, by odd/even house number, or by alphabetized last name (A-F brings sides, G-L bring desserts, etc.).
- You can also keep it simple by hosting an ice cream social or dessert only party. The Issaquah Ice Cream Trike and Ben & Jerry’s both have catering services and are locally owned.
- Food trucks are fun options too! Most food trucks will want a guaranteed minimum purchase amount to show up or a contracted catering menu that is paid in advance. SeattleFoodTruck.com is a great resource for locating a fun truck for your party.
- Pot lucks are fun ways to involve everyone.
- Recruit clean up help in advance of the party.
- Leave the party area in better condition than you found it. This includes picking up broken water balloon pieces, confetti and streamers from the grass.
- Do NOT leave trash bags or over-flowing garbage in or around the public park cans. Cart home your waste and dispose of in your home cans. This is a sanitary and safety issue. Leftover garbage is not only rude for those who also want to use the park but encourages rodents and even bears to tear through the bags and can and make a horrible mess.
- The parks are NOT staffed on the weekend. A Saturday party mess will not be addressed until the following week. Be a good neighbor and ensure all party guests help with waste management after the party.