Spring’s here, and that means summer’s right around the corner. Throwing a block party is a great excuse to get to know those neighbors who you only see traveling to and from work or taking out the trash.
There are a few bureaucratic hoops to jump through with the city, but throwing your own block party is a cinch. The key is starting early.
Think of a block party as a potluck or barbeque-style event intended to attract only local residents who live on your street rather than a community event, like a street fair or farmers’ market, which would attract people from beyond your immediate vicinity.
First, you need to determine the scope of your block party:
- Do you want to block off the street to traffic?
- Do you plan to have live or otherwise amplified music?
- Will your party have large structures such as a stage, merry-go-round, bounce house or the like?
Depending on what you want to do, take the following into consideration so there are no surprises along the way.
Pick a Date
Begin by polling your neighbors to find a good date and time that works for everybody. National Night Out is a natural choice because it always falls on the first Tuesday in August and the city waives certain application fees for parties planned on this eve.
Apply for the necessary permits
Get your block party permit
Block party permits are free and easy—you can apply on paper or online.
You’ll need the following materials at the ready when you apply:
- Notification flyers: These flyers serve as an invite to your party and, more importantly, they notify neighbors of the pending street closure
- Filled out traffic-control plan: This plan ensures your street is closed with all the proper traffic control devices
If you have any questions, contact PBOT at 503-823-4003 or email@example.com.
Need a noise permit?
You do if you want to have amplified music at your block party. Obtain a noise permit from the Bureau of Development Services and be prepared to pay a fee. But if you officially register your block party, this fee is waived on National Night Out—Tuesday, August 6 this year.
Other benefits of National Night Out
In fact, the City of Portland extends a whole list of benefits if your registered community party happens between Sunday, August 4 and Saturday, August 10, 2019. Besides waived application fees, the Office of Neighborhood Development will assist you with party planning and promotion, plus invite the Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue for the kiddos to check out their gear and vehicles.
As the permit holder, you are responsible for providing approved barricades for each end of your street. You’ve got two options:
- Rent ($$) Type I barricades that are MUTCD compliant
- Borrow (free!) pink barricades from Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Get the skinny on all things barricade and find yours here.
This is the easy (and fun) part, right?
Start talking with your neighbors about the food you’d like to serve and the equipment you might need (barbeque, tables, chairs, utensils, etc.) as well as what activities or games you’d like to plan—here are some ideas. Recruit helpers by going door to door or by leaving a flyer, which is a good way to publicize the party as well.
Party in the Park
If you’d rather host a party in your local park instead of shutting down your street, this is a different process that you can complete through Portland Parks & Recreation, and there is a National Night Out application for park parties as well.
Here are a few final things to keep in mind throughout your planning and partying process:
- Be sure to pick up an application at least three weeks in advance—many of the permits require two weeks for approval so give yourself an extra week to work with.
- Your event must end by 10 p.m. (or the time listed on your permit) with barricades cleared from the street.
- None of these permits allow you to serve or consume alcoholic beverages in public spaces. If you want to serve or consume alcohol, the block party application goes out the window and you must apply for a community event (and insurance costs increase substantially). This process is a little simpler if planning your party in a local park.
If you have specific questions about your neighborhood, contact your Neighborhood District Coalition Office or call the city’s block party line at 503.823.4003 and the staff there can answer your questions.
And if you’d like to throw a larger event, the city has plenty of info on special events permits and the associated fee and insurance required.