Sunday, September 9, 2012

Moving to South Orange: Around the Block, Party that is!

Block Party Season Begins Even with the Threat of Bad Weather
A veteran South Orange and Maplewood block party host and hostess explain how to organize an event
By Marcia Worth
Block parties are part of neighborhood tradition, a time for locals to come together and reunite after summer camp and vacations. Since fall schedules are already filling up with soccer, school and volunteer commitments, now is the time to put a block party on the calendar. Veteran organizer Karen Gonsor DiScala of South Orange and Mark Slade of Maplewood have a few suggestions for organizing a simple and “no frills” event.
“First,you choose a date in fall, before it gets too cold or dark too early. You also have to keep in mind that as soon as school starts, the extra-curricular and sports programs also ramp up so availability can be challenging. So, after chosing a date ("I tried the fully democratic approach offering up choices and all it did is postpone the decision and then still, seemingly dimished the quality of the event due to lateness in the season," says Slade.) Then stick with the date, no matter whose birthday party or soccer game gets in the way.”
Once the date is chosen, one needs to apply for the party permit, usually available at your town hall or recreation center. In Maplewood, Slade cautions, "your permit is contingent on securing signatures from about 2/3's of the affected block(s)." When the party is approved, the Police Department is notified, and your block party captain receives permission to block off part of the street beside their home. Discala notes that many neighborhoods have an obvious spot for a party, whether it’s a quiet intersection or a large yard that owners are willing to share.
While DiScala and husband Todd have become unofficial organizers of their neighborhood’s annual event, they also suggest that first-time party organizers “accept all offers of help.” One task is notifying neighbors of the event, either via e-mail or by creating and distributing flyers. In past years, DiScala has sent her two children through the neighborhood, handing out invitations and telling neighbors about the party. "Collecting the money, Slade adds, can be an arduous part of the planning; I sometimes try to solicit the help of some of the kids on the block to go around to help me when the collection phase is lagging." Another task is running errands on the day of the event, purchasing ice, meats and other perishable supplies in addition to accumulating plastic utensils, condimnets and paper products.
Both DiScala and Slade highly recommend that you ask each household to bring a dish. “Odd-numbered houses bring dessert, and evens bring a side or salad,” explains DiScala. Everyone is asked to bring light tables and chairs, and the adults bring beverages for themselves and to share. Neighbors whose homes are closest to the party offer their bathrooms, and someone generally connects a radio or CD player, and later on lights, to an extension cord. DiScala and her husband staff the grill, starting with “kid-friendly” food first. “It’s fun, easy, no stress for anyone,” she says, already looking forward to her neighborhood’s September event. “It’s a nice time to hang out with people I don’t see often enough." Slade also recommends the use of aluminum chafing dishes with sternos to keep cooked foods warm and "let's face it, kids love fries and chicken pieces (as do a good number of their parents." In Maplewood, a block party requires a permit from the Township Clerk. The application form can be found online. The permit application, which must list the party date, times and address, should be completed 30 days before the party date, though the Clerk may waive this requirement. There is a $25 deposit required if residents choose to use barricades to delineate the party area. South Orange also asks residents to complete a permit application, which can also be found online. The permit should be completed 21 days before the party date. For More: South Orange Patch
Mark Slade Keller Williams 917.797.5059 Good Homes

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