Party Planning 101

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Block parties used to be simple affairs. Kids played Wiffle Ball and hide-and-go-seek, while adults played volleyball or charades. A feast of watermelon, corn on the cob, and grill fixin's kept everyone happy. Word of mouth brought out the whole neighborhood gang.

Today's events demand more creativity - and a promotional effort worthy of a political campaign. Anne Marie Sterling, event coordinator and owner of Party Productions based in Richmond, Mich., says a good way to encourage a creative party is to model it after a street fair.

In addition to the traditional picnic tables, lawn chairs, and beverage coolers, a street fair concept ensures a range of activities and allows local talent to shine. Folk singers, magicians, and clowns can be an inexpensive entertainment addition.

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Events should promote wide participation, encourage interaction, and allow people to identify common interests. A scavenger hunt with baked goods for the winners is a sure-fire way to get everyone involved. Plant clues (with permission) in people's homes and yards to encourage a sense of openness.

Water-balloon fights, egg-spoon races, bike parades, pet shows, a children's play or circus, an ice-cream eating contest, a game of capture-the-flag, and face-painting are examples of good bonding activities.

Have someone take photos with a Polaroid and post them on a board throughout the party. Feature top bakers in your neighborhood by having a bake-off. Encourage recipe-sharing.

Ms. Sterling recommends setting up a bulletin board to post business cards. "You just might need the services of your neighborhood mechanic, hairstylist, or stockbroker," she says. Use name tags to make introductions easier.

Promoting the party takes initiative. Organizer Miriam Diaz assembled a planning committee and created a database to reach all of her neighbors. House visits, phone calls, and fliers combined to make her party a success. Invite local police, firefighters, and politicians to your party. They'll have a chance to hear residents' concerns and schmooze for free.

Sterling recommends that during a party you recruit organizers for the next gathering, to keep up momentum.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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