City Cast

3 Questions With Chicago Block Party Planners

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on July 18
Lakeview block party

Lakeview block party. (Courtesy of Joel Simon)

Between street and music fests, Summertime Chi is packed. But don’t sleep on block parties. Lakeview resident Joel Simon planned block parties for years and Beverly resident Ashley Rayner is planning her second one now.

Why’d you start planning block parties?

Joel: “[I used to] get home from work and ask myself, ‘Whose porch are we gonna be sitting on?’ There'd be the people who cluster around, hang out, and chit-chat. A bottle of wine would come out. Somebody [finally] said, ‘Hey, we should formalize this. Let's do a block party.’”

Ashley: “After the pandemic, people were just trying to get to know each other. And [a block party] was a way to bring the block together.”

How do you plan a block party?

Joel: “When we started, we reached out to the alderman. … And that was sort of the only official hurdle that we had before he offered the permit. [The alder] sent some arts and crafts for the kids, the bouncy house, the fire truck, a piñata, and maybe even a popcorn machine. Everything else is really do it yourself. Put a couple of garbage cans at the top of the street, and give everybody warning of when it's gonna be so they can move their cars.”

Ashley: “Flyers are a good way to advertise. If you have food, music, and people who wanna get to know each other, those are the main elements you really need.”

What’s the difference between a block party and street fest?

Joel: “Nobody's making any money. This is all a sort of a community activity as opposed to a transaction or a commercial enterprise.”

Ashley: “A block party is definitely less of an entrepreneurial vibe. We're just like, ‘Hey, we got some stuff together. Let's all sit outside, block off the streets, and get to know each other.”

+ Have your own block party tips? Email us.

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