Did you know that this summer marked the 30th anniversary of National Night Out (NNO)? August 5, to be exact. Did you know that in 2013 more than 1,400 neighborhoods in and around greater Seattle held some kind of block party for National Night Out? I had no idea until a few friends and connections recently shared about their NNO neighborhood block parties this summer.
The National Association of Town Watch (NATW) introduced NNO to launch an effort to promote crime prevention, police-community partnerships, and neighborhood camaraderie. The city of Seattle and its surrounding suburbs are heavily invested in encouraging these gatherings to bring neighbors together, welcome new neighbors, talk about crime prevention efforts and just have a great time together. That’s pretty cool for a city thought of as occasionally frosty.
A friend of mine has been hosting NNO in her neighborhood for the past 6 years. She did it the first time simply because she thought it would be a great way to get to know her neighbors. She, like many of us, worked for many years before having children then, suddenly, she’s home with a child and looks around and doesn’t know anyone. It was time to change that.
So, she got on her town’s website, registered her event, and canvassed her neighborhood with a simply flyer.
I Was Inspired for 3 Big Reasons
Well, I have to say that I was inspired by her story – and a couple of others I’ll share in the coming weeks – enough to try doing a block party of my own. No, it’s not National Night Out and No, it’s not summer. But I think fall is a GREAT time to host a block party in Seattle. Why?
1. Autumn weather in Seattle rocks.
How often have we enjoyed breathtakingly beautiful autumn days in the Northwest? I’ve lived here for 46 of my 49 years and my answer to that is PRETTY DARN OFTEN. If you check out the Farmer’s Almanac for this year, September and October are forecasted to have slightly above average temperatures with plenty of sunny days. This last weekend, my family enjoyed a bike ride along Alki Beach. It was hot. This weekend it’s expected to hit 80 before cooling down a bit next week. Autumn is a great time for an outdoor gathering in greater Seattle!
2. Vacation season is mostly over and the kids are back in school.
I find that summer in Seattle can often be a more difficult time to get neighbors together. Between vacations, family weddings, and a frantic need to not waste even one day of Seattle sunshine, my friends and neighbors are frequent out-of-towners in the summer. Fall brings everyone back.
3. What’s not to love about gathering around a fire pit?
Even if there’s a little drizzle in the forecast or a chill in the air, just get out your fire pit. It’s not too late to buy or borrow one. Think about it. Did a little rain sprinkle ever stop you in high school or college from going to the Friday night football bonfire? Why should our kids have all the fun? Grab your hoodie, invite some neighbors over, and have a great time OUTSIDE!
And have some coffee
In Seattle, it is known that next to the Italians, we are the coffee-drinkingest people on the planet. We like our buzz. So, in that spirit of caffeinated-induced joy, I decided to continue my social experiment of pro-active inviting and I’m hosting a Coffee Bar & S’mores block party this weekend.
Here’s what I did in 5 easy steps:
- For my invitee list, I picked the street I live on, from my house down to the end of the block. Basically, if I stand on my porch and look to the right, I know about 5 families out of 20. Most people I’ve never even seen or talked to even once. If I passed them in the aisle at QFC I wouldn’t know they lived in my neighborhood. I estimate that about 50% of the homes have ‘turned over’ in the last 4 years – two are moving in within the next couple of weeks.
- I decided to Keep It Simple and I’m having a Coffee Bar & S’mores party. We’ll have 1-2 fire pits going in our back yard depending on how many rsvp’s I get. Regular and decaf; Kahlua & Baileys; Cream & Sugar; Regular and gluten-free graham crackers, marshmallows and Hershey bars. Roasting sticks/skewers. Plates and napkins. Water. That’s it. Pretty Simple.
- I went out and bought two packs of off-the-shelf invites. I used my Microsoft Publisher A5 setting to type out the event details aligned in the right places and printed out 20 invites. Then, I wrote/printed a personal note on the back that said “there have been lots of new neighbors move to our block in the last 3-4 years, and I’d love the opportunity to get to know you all better.”
- Delivered them. OK, first I channeled a little Martha Stewart and put a little coffee graphic embellishment on each one. Then, this last Monday afternoon I just walked the block and left them on each door handle. I didn’t knock on doors or put anyone on the spot. I just left them an invite.
- I let go of expectations. Whoever can and wants to come, will come. Whoever can’t or decides it’s ‘just not their thing’ won’t. The goal of the Thaw is simply to do a better job of INVITING. I’m not trolling for BFFs. I’m not keeping score of how many YES’s I get. I’m simply trying to reverse some chilly behavior by extending some invitations in the hopes that if there ARE some people who really want or need to connect, they’ll feel welcomed.
It’s ok, for any of my neighbors, if it’s just not their thing.
It’s my thing. And while I never reveal details of conversations or anything else that would invade my neighbors’ privacy, next week I’ll let you know in general how it goes.
Do you think you could host a Fall Block Party to get to know your neighbors?